Israel denies it urged Ukraine to accept Russian stance

AFP , Saturday 12 Mar 2022

Israel has denied allegations it urged Kyiv to accept Moscow-proposed terms as part of Israel’s mediation efforts to end the conflict in Ukraine.

 Bennett, Zelensky and Putin
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. AFP

Israeli media said Friday that a senior Ukrainian official accused Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of acting as a mailbox for Russian demands.

According to left-leaning daily Haaretz, the unidentified official said Bennett urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over the telephone to "accept the Russian stance" and surrender.

"This report isn't just inaccurate but patently false," a senior official in Bennett's office said in a statement sent to AFP on Saturday.

"At no point did PM Bennett advise President Zelensky to take a deal from Putin -- because no such deal was offered to Israel for us to be able to do so," the official added.

"Bennett has at no point told Zelensky how to act nor does he have any intention to."

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, Bennett has avoided forceful condemnation of Russia's invasion, stressing Israel's strong ties with Moscow and Kyiv.

Israel has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine and Bennett, who visited the Kremlin a week ago, has sought to mediate between the two countries in a bid to end the conflict.

Ukraine's ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk this week thanked Bennett for his mediation efforts but grew emotional when expressing frustration that Israel had not yet approved the export of defensive equipment -- specifically helmets and flak jackets -- to Ukraine.

"I don't know what these people (Israeli officials) are afraid of, to provide personal security to Ukrainians," Korniychuk said, as he put on the type of helmet he said Ukrainians were seeking to acquire.

According to Israeli media, Bennett has rejected repeated requests from Kyiv for military assistance.

During a press conference on Friday, Korniychuk said Israel did not have "exclusivity" over mediation efforts, noting that none had so far been successful.

He called on Israel to join Western countries that have imposed harsh sanctions on Russia.

The office of Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he would depart Saturday evening for visits to Romania and Slovakia to discuss the conflict with senior officials.

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