The Macomb Daily

Ex-Israeli PM: Putin promised not to kill Zelenskyy

- By Tia Goldenberg

Iran is set to pardon or reduce the sentences of “tens of thousands” of prisoners, including those swept up in the crackdown on protests that erupted in the country in September, state news reported on Sunday.

Iran’s judiciary head Gholamhoss­ein Mohseni-Eje’i proposed the amnesty in a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, state news agency IRNA said.

Among those ineligible are people accused of committing espionage on behalf of foreign interests or having direct contact with foreign intelligen­ce service agents; those arrested for intentiona­l murder or injury or destructio­n of government, military and public facilities, as well as people charged with other crimes such as banditry, and dealing arms and alcohol.

A former Israeli prime minister who served briefly as a mediator at the start of Russia’s war with Ukraine says he drew a promise from the Russian president not to kill his Ukrainian counterpar­t.

Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett emerged as an unlikely intermedia­ry in the war’s first weeks, becoming one of the few Western leaders to meet President Vladimir Putin during the war in a snap trip to Moscow last March.

While Bennett’s mediation efforts appear to have done little to end the bloodshed that continues until today, his remarks, in an interview posted online late Saturday, shed light on the backroom diplomacy and urgent efforts that were underway to try to bring the conflict to a speedy conclusion in its early days.

In the five-hour interview, which touched on numerous other subjects, Bennett says he asked Putin about whether he intended to kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“I asked ‘what’s with this?

Are you planning to kill Zelenskyy?’ He said ‘I won’t kill Zelenskyy.’ I then said to him ‘I have to understand that you’re giving me your word that you won’t kill Zelenskyy.’ He said ‘I’m not going to kill Zelenskyy.’”

Bennett said he then called Zelenskyy to inform him of 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% he won’t kill you.’”

Bennett said that during his mediation, Putin dropped his vow to seek Ukraine’s disarmamen­t and Zelenskyy promised not to join NATO.

There was no immediate response from the Kremlin, which has previously denied Ukrainian claims that Russia intended to assassinat­e Zelenskyy.

Reacting to Bennett’s comments in his widely reported interview, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote Sunday on Twitter: “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, a largely untested leader who had served as prime minister for just over six months when the war broke out, unexpected­ly thrust himself into internatio­nal diplomacy after he had positioned Israel into an uncomforta­ble middle ground between Russia and Ukraine.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States