Israeli leader meets Putin to discuss Ukraine cease-fire

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday secretly traveled to Moscow to discuss a possible cease-fire with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an Israeli official confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: This is a highly unusual move by Bennett, who has been communicating in recent days with both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to try and promote a cease fire.

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The state of play: Since the Russian invasion, Bennett has spoken twice each with Zelensky and Putin.

  • Bennett’s mediation effort started at the request of the Ukrainian president, Israeli officials say.

  • Bennett said publicly several days ago that Israel has a unique status that allows it to speak to both sides with which it has a good relationship.

  • Last October, in a meeting with Putin in Sochi, Bennett proposed holding a Russia-Ukraine summit in Jerusalem. Putin, at the time, wasn’t enthusiastic and harshly criticized Zelensky.

Driving the news: Bennett, who is an observant Jew, traveled to Moscow on Shabbat without announcing it.

  • The Israel military censor issued a gag order on the trip but the Kremlin spokesman exposed it by issuing a statement.

  • The Israeli prime minister’s office notified the White House in advance of Bennett’s trip, an Israeli official told Axios.

After the Kremlin’s statement about the meeting, the Israeli prime minister’s office confirmed the trip.

Editor’s note: This is a developing story and has been updated throughout.

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