MOSCOW: The President of Russia extended warm wishes to Naftali Bennett and the people of Israel on today’s national holiday – Independence Day. Vladimir Putin and Naftali Bennett expressed mutual interest in further developing friendly Russia-Israel relations and maintaining beneficial contacts between the leaders of the two countries.

The leaders continued their detailed exchange of views on the situation in Ukraine. They paid special attention to humanitarian issues, including the evacuation of civilians held by militants of nationalist battalions from the Azovstal steel plant, in cooperation with representatives of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. As before, the Russian military is ready to ensure the safe exit of civilians. As for the remaining militants at the Azovstal plant, the Kiev authorities should order them to lay down arms.

On the eve of Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War, which Russia and Israel celebrate on 9 May, Vladimir Putin and Naftali Bennett emphasised the special importance of this date for the people of both countries, who carefully preserve the historical truth about the events of those years and honour the memory of all the fallen, including the victims of the Holocaust. The President of Russia recalled that of the six million Jews tortured in ghettoes and death camps and killed by the Nazis during punitive operations, 40 percent were Soviet citizens, and asked Naftali Bennett to convey wishes of good health and wellbeing to the war veterans in Israel. In turn, Naftali Bennett highlighted the Red Army’s decisive contribution to the Victory over Nazism.

TEL-AVIV: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, today.

The Prime Minister presented the President with a humanitarian request to examine various options for evacuation from Azovstal in Mariupol. The request came as a result of Prime Minister Bennett’s conversation yesterday with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

President Putin promised to allow the evacuation of civilians, including wounded civilians, through a UN and Red Cross humanitarian corridor.

In addition, the two discussed Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s remarks. The Prime Minister accepted President Putin’s apology for Lavrov’s remarks and thanked him for clarifying his attitude towards the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust.

Prime Minister Bennett thanked President Putin for his wishes on the occasion of the 74th Independence Day of the State of Israel.