Ukrainian leaders on Sunday dismissed as “lies” a pledge reportedly made by Russian President Vladimir Putin not to kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Naftali Bennett, whose brief run as Israel’s prime minister ended in June, met with Putin in Moscow less than two weeks after Russia’s February invasion trying to mediate an end to hostilities.
“He gave me two great concessions,” Bennett said in an interview with Israeli journalist Hanoch Daum released late Saturday. “I said, ‘Do you intend to kill Zelenskyy?’ He said, ‘I won’t kill Zelenskyy.’
Putin also agreed not to demand that Ukraine disarm, Bennett said. He said he immediately relayed the information to Zelenskyy, who promised not to join NATO. Both sides have moved away from those positions.
Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba dismissed Putin’s pledge, tweeting that Putin has previously made promises not to occupy Crimea and not to invade Ukraine.
“Don’t be fooled,” Kuleba said of Putin. “He is an expert liar.”
Zelenskyy adviser Mykhailo Podoliak also rejected the claims, tweeting that the Russian invasion “isn’t about NATO expansion, security guarantees or sanctions, it’s (Russia’s) desire to destroy & kill Ukrainians.”
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- Vladimir Putin’s ambitions do not end with the conquest of Ukraine, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly warned. “He wants to end world politics and call time on the international order,” Cleverly said. “And if he succeeds, he will drag us all back to an age of violence and conquest.
- Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said four people were injured Sunday when a Russian S-300 missile fell near an apartment block in Kharkiv city, and another was hurt when a missile hit a university building.
- In the Black Sea port of Odesa, workers labored to connect temporary generators after the city was plunged into darkness following a large-scale network failure grid operator Ukrenergo blamed on equipment “repeatedly repaired” after Russian strikes.
Russia gaining ground near the crucial city of Bakhmut
Over the past week, Russia has made “small’ advances in its attempt to encircle the crucial Donbas town of Bakhmut, the British Defense Ministry said in its latest assessment of the war. The two main roads into the city for Ukrainian defenders are likely now both threatened by direct fire, the assessment says. Earlier in the week, Russian paramilitary forces “highly likely” seized a subordinate route linking Bakhmut to the town of Siversk.
“While multiple alternative cross-country supply routes remain available to Ukrainian forces, Bakhmut is increasingly isolated,” the assessment says.
Bakhmut is considered an important link in the supply line for both sides seeking control of the city of 75,000 people. Unfettered access would be key to seizing control of the Donetsk region, which Russia has claimed to annex but thus far has not been able to fully occupy. Russia controls almost all of neighboring Luhansk, which along with Donetsk makes up the industrial Donbas region Putin has repeatedly said is a primary objective of the war.
Ukraine expects to get fighter jets from the West
Western nations will probably grant Ukraine’s request for warplanes soon, despite recent public rejections of the request from President Joe Biden and other world leaders, Ukraine’s defense minister said Sunday. Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine has already received everything from its “wish list to Santa,” except planes.
“There will be planes, too,” he said.
He said the planes are crucial if Ukraine is to repel a Russian offensive he predicted could begin around the war’s one-year anniversary, Feb. 24. Biden, when asked at the White House on Monday whether his country would provide F-16s, answered “no.” Britain also has rejected the request for planes.
Contributing: The Associate Press