Russian President Vladimir Putin apologized to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for recent remarks by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to the Israeli account of a conversation between the two leaders on Thursday, after the diplomat’s comments about Jews, Ukraine and neo-Nazis threatened to disrupt relations and further isolate the Kremlin.
Mr. Bennett said in a statement after the call, which took place during Israel’s Independence Day holiday, that “he accepted President Putin’s apology.”
The Kremlin’s account of the conversation didn’t mention an apology, instead noting that Mr. Putin referred to the Holocaust during the conversation, as well as discussing the situation in Ukraine.
The Kremlin said in a statement Thursday that the two countries cherished the “historical truth” on what happened during World War II. Mr. Putin said that out of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis, 40% were citizens of the Soviet Union, according to the Kremlin statement.
Mr. Lavrov, in an interview with Italian media, compared Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, with Hitler and accused Jews of anti-Semitism—remarks that Israel condemned on Monday as unforgivable.
Russia on Tuesday doubled down on its claims, accusing Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid of making “antihistorical statements” when he responded that Jews didn’t murder themselves in the Holocaust.
Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar called on Mr. Lavrov to apologize for his remarks, saying an acknowledgement would help everyone move on.
The Israeli statement on Thursday added that Mr. Bennett thanked Mr. Putin “for clarifying the president’s attitude toward the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust.”
Mr. Bennett also asked Mr. Putin to examine options for the evacuations of civilians who remain trapped by Russian forces at the Azovstal steel plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. The request was in response to a conversation Mr. Bennett had Wednesday with Mr. Zelensky, the statement said.
Mr. Putin told Mr. Bennett that Russia was willing to provide safe passage for the civilians and called on Ukrainian authorities to order remaining fighters to lay down their weapons, the Kremlin said.
Mr. Bennett had sought to play a mediating role between Kyiv and Moscow early in the war, without success.