Zelensky says he spoke with Bennett, thanks him for mediation efforts with Russia

Leaders ‘discussed ways to end the war and violence’; emotional Ukrainian ambassador describes harsh situation in Kharkiv, asks Israel for help

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 7, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 7, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday he’d spoken to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and thanked him for his efforts to mediate between Moscow and Kyiv.

In an English-language tweet, Zelensky said that the two “discussed ways to end the war and violence.”

He did not mention when the call took place. There was no immediate comment from the Prime Minister’s Office.

This would be at least the fifth call between the two leaders since Russia’s invasion began on February 24.

The Kremlin said Tuesday that Bennett had also spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin again to discuss the situation in Ukraine, which would be the second phone call between the leaders since Bennett’s trip to Moscow on Saturday.

The PMO has yet to release a statement on either call.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C), and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Combo photo: AFP)

The Israeli premier visited Moscow for a meeting with Putin on Saturday, trying to help broker an end to the war with Ukraine. After meeting with Putin, Bennett spoke to Zelensky and French President Emmanuel Macron, and also visited Berlin on Saturday for talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Bennett also spoke to Putin by phone on Sunday.

Israel has had an up-and-down relationship with Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion on February 24. Zelensky reached out to Bennett early on, urging him to make use of Israel’s working relations with Kyiv and Moscow to mediate between the sides.

Bennett has attempted to do so, but his reluctance to directly criticize Moscow for its invasion — due, in part, to Russia’s control of Syria’s skies along Israel’s northern border — has incensed Kyiv and others.

Ukrainian officials have thanked Israel for its mediation attempts as well as for sending humanitarian aid to civilians fleeing the country, but Zelensky also criticized Bennett last week, saying he felt the premier was not “wrapped in our flag,” a reference to a photo showing Israeli men wrapped in Ukrainian flags at the Western Wall.

Kyiv’s ambassador to Israel has repeatedly lamented Israel’s refusal to send military protective gear for Ukrainian troops, let alone weaponry.

An emotional Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk addressed the conference of the Institute for National Security Studies on Tuesday and said Kyiv “believed” — in the past tense — that Israel was a close friend and partner.

Korniychuk was visibly upset as he spoke about the situation in the city of Kharkiv.

“Kharkiv is the second biggest city in Ukraine. Lots of the foreign students, including Israelis, who did not evacuate on time. People have been sleeping underground for the past two weeks,” he said.

“There is a shortage of food and pharmaceutical products,” he added.

“We are seeking international assistance in all possible spheres, including from Israel — this country that we all believed is our close friend and partner,” he said.

AP contributed to this report. 

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