Senior Ukrainian officials arrived in Israel on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing negotiations with Russia, in the first such visit since Prime Minister Naftali Bennett launched his mediation efforts between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The visit was planned during Tuesday's round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul, which represent the first direct peace talks between the sides in more than two weeks.
Israeli and Ukrainian sources told Haaretz that the delegation would hold meetings with Israeli officials on cease-fire talks and Israel’s policy on Ukrainian refugees. Israeli diplomatic sources said they also expect the Ukrainians to reiterate their request for ammunition and defense equipment from Israel.
The delegation is led by Sergey Shefir, a top presidential aide and close confidante of President Zelenskyy. Shefir will be joined by former ambassador to Israel Hennadii Nadolenko and Jewish lawmaker Olga Vasilevskaya-Smaglyuk later on Wednesday.
"We would like to touch upon the whole range of issues. Our goal is to properly facilitate communication while considering Israel's stance," Vasilevskaya-Smaglyuk told Haaretz.
The delegation is expected to meet with Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, although plans for the meeting have yet to be finalized. They are also set to meet with other senior Israeli officials, and possibly Prime Minister Bennett as well.
Also on Wednesday, a U.S. official said, citing declassified intelligence, that Russian President Vladimir Putin was misled by his advisers about how poorly the war in Ukraine is going and how damaging Westerns sanctions have been to Russia's economy.
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"We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions, because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth," the official said on condition of anonymity.
During the talks in Istanbul, Russia promised at peace talks on Tuesday to scale down its military operations around Kyiv and northern Ukraine, while Ukraine proposed adopting a neutral status but with international guarantees that it would be protected from attack.
The talks in a palace in Istanbul came as Russia's invasion has been halted on most fronts by strong resistance, with Ukrainians recapturing territory in counter-attacks, even as civilians are trapped in besieged cities.
A top aide to Zelenskyy said last week that Ukraine's intelligence services are cooperating closely with its Israeli counterparts.
According to a Financial Times report, Bennett has been the prime mediator in talks between the two sides.