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Zelensky chief of staff lauds Israel’s ‘brave’ mediation efforts, new refugee rules

Andriy Yermak says he’s in constant contact with Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata; another aide notes positive shift in Kyiv-Jerusalem ties

Ukraine's presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak speaks at a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 12, 2020. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Ukraine's presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak speaks at a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 12, 2020. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

A top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lauded Israel on Monday for its mediation efforts between Kyiv and Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Andriy Yermak, who heads Zelensky’s office, also hailed Israel’s decision to allow in more Ukrainian refugees who aren’t eligible for citizenship.

“Israel undertook the difficult but noble mission of mediating the search for peace and ending Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” Yermak wrote on Twitter.

“We also have an intensive dialogue with it on its participation in humanitarian issues,” he added.

Yermak said he was in constant contact with National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata, to which he attributed the refugee policy change announced Sunday by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.

“The first results have already been achieved: as part of the evacuation, relatives of those Ukrainians who are already in the country will be admitted to Israel,” he wrote.

“I thank my colleagues and hope for the success of our joint diplomatic efforts.”

As talks between Moscow and Kyiv to end the war in Ukraine resumed Monday, Oleksiy Arestovych, another Zelensky adviser, said there was a possibility of holding ceasefire talks between the two countries in Jerusalem.

Ahead of a phone call with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday, the Ukrainian leader suggested the Israeli capital could host the negotiations. Zelensky said he believed Israel could provide security guarantees for Ukraine and hoped Bennett would have a positive influence on negotiations.

“There is some rapprochement in the talks and President Zelensky himself mentioned the possibility that the talks will take place in Jerusalem — so if he says that, it will probably happen,” Arestovych told Israel’s Ynet news site.

Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. (screenshot)

“If the Russians had not agreed to this, the possibility would not have come up,” he added, saying that he could not go into further details on the matter.

Arestovych said that Ukraine will demand Russia withdraw all its forces from the country, with negotiations regarding Crimea and the Donbas region to be discussed afterward — a sentiment echoed by Kyiv’s lead negotiator ahead of a fresh round of talks on Monday.

He also noted a positive shift in ties between Ukraine and Israel, which have seen numerous apparent ups and downs in recent days, with Kyiv at times lauding Israel’s diplomatic and humanitarian efforts and at other times strongly criticizing its reluctance to help more than it had done.

Ukrainian servicemen carry rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles as they walk towards the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 13, 2022. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)

“We feel that the Israelis are more involved, and we very much appreciate that effort,” he said.

Asked how he believes the conflict will come to an end, Arestovych said that Ukraine is at a “crossroads.”

“Either it will end quicker than we originally thought, or drag on,” he said.

A destroyed tank is seen after battles between Ukrainian and Russian forces on a main road near Brovary, north of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

“The Russians are now looking for reinforcements and are trying to bring in fighters from Russia and Libya — but that’s not going well for them yet. They may find 10,000-15,000 fighters to be taken to the more difficult battle zones in Mariupol and Mykolaiv, but we managed to stop them on the way to Kyiv, Sumy and Kharkiv, and they cannot advance,” he said.

“After we defeat them there — we will reach a point where we can seriously talk about a ceasefire.”

Arestovych would not rule out the possibility that a ceasefire would be reached by the end of April or at the start of May.

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