Ukrainian lawmaker hails Bennett's mediation but says Putin's demands 'absurd'

Ukrainian lawmaker tells Ynet he thinks PM's mediation efforts a 'good move' but 'not realistic' as Russian leader keeps piling demands, which he says Kyiv simply cannot accept; asks Israel to send weapons

Alexandra Lukash|
A senior Ukrainian lawmaker on Wednesday welcomed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's efforts to mediate a solution to hostilities with Russia but added that such a move was "unrealistic" amid President Vladimir Putin's "absurd" demands.
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  • Oleksandr Merezhko, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Policy and Interparliamentary Cooperation, told Ynet in an English interview that what his country needs the most is weapons to fend off Russian invaders.
    Merezhko called Putin the "Hitler of the 21st century", and claimed that his country would not agree to Putin's ceasefire conditions.
    "The situation is difficult because we live in constant fear of a new onslaught of Russian troops", said Merezhko from his home in central Kyiv, which he says he does not intend on leaving.
    "...Russians deliberately target civilians and we are afraid that Putin, before he will attack, he might deliver a strike, air raids and missile strikes against Kyiv... this is our biggest concern right now. But we are ready to defend our country, we will defend each building in Kyiv and I have no doubt that we will win."
    Merezhko further said he was preparing for an escalation of the conflict.
    "...We have to be prepared for the worst scenario. Director of [the] CIA William Burns has said recently that [the] next several weeks might be really tough. It might be a bloodbath. That's why we need [a] no-fly zone to be established over Kyiv and over [the] biggest cities in Ukraine."
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    חיילים אוקראינים באירפין
    חיילים אוקראינים באירפין
    (Photo: AP)
    Merezhko also said he thought Putin's peace overtures were not serious since Russian shelling of Ukrainian cities continued regardless.
    "I think it's a good move and, of course, we're in favor of such efforts to be [a] mediator, but we should also keep in mind that, unfortunately, at present moment it's not realistic. Putin is not serious about holding negotiations and stopping fire, because any negotiations should start with a ceasefire, and Putin doesn't do it..."
    The lawmaker also rejected claims by Israeli officials that the key to the success of the talks was in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's hands, saying Russia's demands were unacceptable.
    "I've been taking part in the trilateral group as a negotiator and I know the tactics of [the] Russians, how they negotiate. So the ball is in the court of [the] Russians. They should stop fighting, they should agree to [a] ceasefire. This is the most important thing because [the] Russians have already killed more than 50 children and they continue deliberately targeting civilians. They need to stop doing this. And after that, they should stop putting forward their absurd demands, which look like demands of [the] surrender of Ukraine. This is totally absurd."
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    ולדימיר פוטין
    ולדימיר פוטין
    Russian President Vladimir Putin
    (Photo: AP)
    Merezhko also vehemently rejected Russia's demands that Ukraine recognizes Moscow's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula as well as recognize the independence of two pro-Russian breakaway republics in the country's east.
    "Why should we agree [to this]? He should agree", he said. "[Putin is] a war criminal, he committed crimes against Ukraine. He invaded Ukraine. He should withdraw his troops and the world should put pressure upon Putin and Russians to withdraw their troops from the territory of Ukraine and to pay reparations for all the crimes and damage which was done to the Ukrainian population..."
    Despite his predictions of an imminent escalation, Merezhko stayed optimistic about Ukraine coming out on top at the end of the conflict.
    "We're already winning... Putin hoped that he would take Kyiv within two or three days — he failed. We see that the world is united behind Ukraine. We get very powerful support from our allies, partners and from the whole world and we would also want to count on the support of Israel, because you can provide us with weapons..."
    "What's going on right now, more and more looks like a genocide against Ukrainians led by the Hitler of the 21st century."
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