JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held separate phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday in an attempt to mediate the crisis between the two warring nations.
Bennett’s hour and a half conversation with Putin focused on efforts to implement a ceasefire and bring Israeli humanitarian aid to Ukrainian cities, Israeli media reported, citing a diplomatic source. The official said Putin told Bennett that Ukrainian soldiers were committing “barbaric” acts in the separatist-controlled region of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Russia said on Monday that a Ukrainian missile attack on a residential area in Donetsk killed 23 people. Ukraine denied those accusations. Neither country’s claims could be independently verified.
Bennett later held a phone call with Zelensky, who tweeted that the two leaders “exchanged information on our joint steps and steps of our partners against the background of Russian aggression. Agreed on further actions.”
The prime minister’s office did not give details about the conversations. Bennett said in his cabinet meeting on Monday that Israel is “managing this complex crisis with sensitivity, responsibility and are making an effort to offer assistance however we can.”
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Israel is one of the few countries in the world to have strong relations with both Russia and Ukraine and is attempting to walk a diplomatic tightrope between the two nations.
Israel has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine but rejected requests by Kyiv to send defensive military supplies like helmets and jackets.
For weeks, Bennett has worked to mediate between Russia and Ukraine.
Zelensky has told Bennett that he would be open to negotiating an end to the war with Putin in Jerusalem, but that first there would have to be a cease-fire.
Putin has ignored Zelensky’s previous offers to talk.