Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been the primary international mediator in talks between Russia and Ukraine, The Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing three people familiar with the matter.

According to the report, Bennett took on this role following a surprise visit to Moscow on March 5, with back-to-back talks with both leaders as recently as two days ago.

The report also said that Ukraine and Russia have made significant progress on a tentative peace plan including a ceasefire and Russian withdrawal if Kyiv declares neutrality and accepts limits on its armed forces, according to five people briefed on the talks.

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators discussed the proposed deal in full for the first time on Monday, said two of the people. The 15-point draft considered that day would involve Kyiv renouncing its ambitions to join NATO and promising not to host foreign military bases or weaponry in exchange for protection from allies such as the US, UK and Turkey, the people said.

Although Moscow and Kyiv both said they had made progress on the terms of a deal, Ukrainian officials are skeptical that Russian President Vladimir Putin is fully committed to peace and worry that Moscow could be buying time to regroup its forces and resume its offensive, according to The Financial Times.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Ukraine claimed that Russian military forces bombed a theater where more than 1,000 civilians were hiding in the city of Mariupol.

The theater was completely destroyed and there is concern for the lives of hundreds of people trapped inside.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed members of the US Congress and asked for America to take action to save his country from Russia's invasion, including the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

"In the darkest time for our country, for the whole Europe, I call on you to do more. New packages of sanctions are needed, constantly, every week until the Russian military machine stops. Restrictions are needed for everyone on whom this unjust regime is based," Zelenskyy said via video address.

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