Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on Saturday to discuss the war in Ukraine and later spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the spokesperson for the Israeli leader said.
Bennett is coordinating his efforts in the crisis with the United States, France and Germany, an Israeli official said.
After his meeting with Putin, Bennett headed to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz - who visited Israel only last week, his spokesperson said.
It is assumed that the meeting between the two is part of an attempt to mediate between Putin and the West as relations between the two sides continue to deteriorate due to the harsh economic sanctions hitting Moscow in the wake of the attack on Ukraine, which entered its tenth day on Saurday.
French President Emmanuel Macron had spoken to Bennett before he flew to Moscow to brief him on his own conversations with Putin, the Élysée Palace said.
"They will stay in touch with the aim of obtaining a ceasefire, and this in coordination with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz," an Élysée Palace official said.
Israel, at the behest of Zelensky, 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, Bennett also raised with Putin the issue of the large Jewish community caught up in the war in Ukraine. He was accompanied by his Ukrainian-born housing minister, Zeev Elkin. Elkin had in the past accompanied former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an interpreter in his talks with Putin.
Bennett's meeting with Putin makes him the first Western leader to meet with the Russian president since Moscow's offensive began last Thursday.
The Prime Minister's Office said that Bennett, a religious Jew who observes Shabbat, flew to Moscow in the early hours of Saturday morning in violation of the Jewish law in because Judaism permits this when the aim is to preserve human life, his spokesperson said.
The PMO added that the meeting follows Bennett's phone conversation with Putin on Wednesday, which itself took place at the same time as the historic vote at the UN General Assembly meant to condemn Russia’s aggression - where Israel sided with the motion of condemnation despite expressing reluctance to do so initially.
Ynet has learned that the trip was coordinated with both the White House and Kyiv. Israel will send medical teams to Ukraine next week to set up a field hospital that will provide treatment for refugees, its Health Ministry said.
Zelensky, on his part, said he expected Bennett to be more supportive of Ukraine when it was invaded by Russia.
Bennett previously warned that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine could escalate drastically “if world leaders fail to act quickly."