Putin Assures Israel's Bennett Russia Ready to Talk to Ukraine, Says Kiev Showing 'Inconsistency'
11:59 GMT 27.02.2022 (Updated: 13:44 GMT 27.02.2022)
Russia summoned Israel's ambassador to Moscow on Friday to ask why Tel Aviv "supports neo-Nazis" in Kiev after Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid blasted the Russian military operation in Ukraine as a 'grave violation of the international order'.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has assured Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that Moscow remains open to talks with Kiev, but informed him that Ukraine's leaders have shown "inconsistency" on the matter.
"It was noted that the Russian delegation is situated in the Belarusian city of Gomel and is ready for negotiations with representatives from Kiev, who, showing inconsistency, have not yet taken advantage of this opportunity," the Kremlin said in a statement summarising a phone call between Putin and Bennett that took place Sunday.
"In turn, Naftali Bennett offered Israel's services as an intermediary in order to suspend hostilities," the Kremlin said.
Sunday's call took place on the initiative of the Israeli side, and "bilateral contacts" at various levels were said to have been agreed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with Bennett on Friday, asking
Tel Aviv to help mediate the crisis. Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk said Kiev felt "that Israel is the only democratic state in the world that has great relations with both Ukraine and Russia".
"They didn't say no. They are trying to figure out where they are in this chess play," Korniychuk said.
Moscow summoned Israeli ambassador to Russia Alexander Ben Zvi on Friday and asked him to clarify Tel Aviv's position on Russia's operation to "demilitarize and denazify" Ukraine, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov reportedly asking the envoy to explain why Israel was expressing support for "neo-Nazis" in Kiev.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid blasted the Russian military operation on Thursday, calling it an "attack on Ukraine" and "a serious violation of the international order."
"Israel condemns that attack and is ready and prepared to offer humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian citizens," Lapid said. The minister also said that Israel has "deep, long-lasting and good relations" with both Kiev and Moscow, and noted that Tel Aviv's top priority was the safety and security of the thousands of Israelis and hundreds of thousands of Jews living in both countries.
A Russian delegation arrived in Gomel, southeastern Belarus on Sunday for talks with Kiev representatives. Vladimir Medinsky, the former Russian minister of culture heading up the talks on the Russian side, said
Sunday afternoon that a Ukrainian delegation is on route to Belarus for negotiations.
Russia and its Donbass allies - the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, launched a major military operation in Ukraine on Thursday after an effort to deescalate tensions and halt Ukrainian artillery and mortar attacks on the republics failed.
The US and its allies in Europe and Asia condemned the Russian operation as an unprovoked "invasion" and an act of "military aggression" and slapped Moscow with new sanctions, with NATO beefing up its military presence in Eastern Europe and ramping up military aid to Kiev.
The current crisis is the culmination of eight years of escalating tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine following a pro-Western coup in Kiev in February 2014, which ousted the country's neutrality-seeking government and replaced it with forces seeking to integrate the country into the European Union and NATO.