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Israel’s Bennett visits Putin, speaks with Zelenskiy via phone

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss the war in Ukraine.

 Israeli government sources also said on Saturday that Mr Bennett later spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Reuters reports an unnamed Israeli official as saying that the Israeli prime minister is coordinating his efforts in the crisis with the US, France and Germany.

After his meeting with President Putin, Mr Bennett headed to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the PM’s spokesperson said.

French President Emmanuel Macron had spoken to the Israeli PM before he flew to Moscow to brief him on his own conversations with Mr Putin, the Elysée Palace said on Saturday.

“They will stay in touch with the aim of obtaining a ceasefire, and this in coordination with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz,” an Elysée official said.

Israel, at the behest of Mr Zelenskiy, has offered to mediate in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, though officials have previously played down expectations of any breakthrough.

In their three-hour meeting in the Kremlin, the Israeli official said, Mr Bennett also raised with Mr Putin the issue of the large Jewish community caught up in the war in Ukraine.

Israel will send medical teams to Ukraine next week to set up a field hospital that will provide treatment for refugees, Reuters reported its Health Ministry as saying.

While Israel, a close ally of the US, has condemned the Russian invasion, voiced solidarity with Ukraine and sent humanitarian aid to the embattled East European nation, it has said it will maintain contact with Moscow in the hope of helping to ease the crisis.

Analysts say that Israel, which is home to a substantial population of immigrants from the former USSR, is also mindful of Moscow’s military support for President Bashar al-Assad in next-door Syria, where Israel regularly attacks Iranian and Hezbollah military targets.

Communication with Moscow, they say, prevents Russian and Israeli forces trading fire by accident.