Putin promised not to kill Zelensky, Israeli mediator says

Associated Press/Gil Cohen-Magen

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in an interview that Russian President Vladimir Putin promised not to kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the early days of the Kremlin’s invasion of its neighbor.

In a nearly five-hour podcast interview with Israeli journalist Hanoch Daum, Bennett said he asked Putin if he had intentions to kill Zelensky during a meeting at the start of the war.

“I asked, ‘What’s with this? Are you planning to kill Zelenskiy?’ He said, ‘I won’t kill Zelenskiy.’ I then said to him, ‘I have to understand that you’re giving me your word that you won’t kill Zelenskiy.’ He said, ‘I’m not going to kill Zelenskiy,’” Bennett told Daum during the interview published Sunday on Bennett’s YouTube channel. 

Bennett, who sought to be a mediator in the war during his year as prime minister, told Daum that he informed Zelensky about Putin’s pledge.

“’Listen, I came out of a meeting. He’s not going to kill you.’ He asks, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ’100 percent. He won’t kill you,’” Bennett said. 

Bennett claimed that during his attempts at mediation, Putin pledged to drop his demand for Ukraine’s disarmament and Zelensky vowed to not join NATO. 

In response to Bennett’s remarks, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned that Putin is an “expert liar.”

“In the past, Putin has made promises not to occupy Crimea, not to violate Minsk agreements, not to invade Ukraine, yet he has done all of these things,” Kuleba wrote in a tweet. “Do not be fooled: he is an expert liar. Every time he has promised not to do something, it has been exactly part of his plan.” 

Bennett’s remarks come a week after former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed in a BBC-produced documentary that Putin threatened to kill him with a missile strike days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

A Kremlin spokesperson has denied Johnson’s claim.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tags Dmytro Kuleba Israel Naftali Bennett Naftali Bennett Russia Russia-Ukraine conflict Ukraine Vladimir Putin Voldymyr Zelensky. Volodymyr Zelensky

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