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So what if Zelensky is Jewish, ‘Hitler also had Jewish blood’, says Russia’s foreign minister

Israeli foreign minister slams Russia’s ‘unforgivable, scandalous and horrible historical error’

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 02 May 2022 10:38 BST
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Civilians evacuated from Azovstal plant in Ukraine’s Mariupol

Justifying Vladimir Putin’s call to “denazify” Ukraine, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov argued that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s Jewish ancestry did not matter.

“So what if Zelensky is Jewish? The fact does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine. I believe that Hitler also had Jewish blood,” Mr Lavrov said in an interview with an Italian television on Sunday. “Some of the worst antisemites are Jews.”

Mr Lavrov was referring to an unproven theory that German dictator Adolf Hitler had possible Jewish and African ancestors.

Mr Putin declared war on Ukraine on 24 February, describing it as a “special military operation” to disarm the eastern European country and remove leaders who he described as neo-Nazis.

Although Ukraine has a dark history of antisemitism, with the ultra-nationalist militia Azov battalion even fighting alongside the Ukrainian army in the three-month-long war, Nato and its allies see Moscow’s “denazification” bid as a pretext for an invasion.

The Russian minister said Mr Zelensky could promote peace between the two countries if he stopped giving “criminal” instructions to his “Nazi soldiers”, according to The Times of Israel.

There are publications “confirming that Americans and especially Canadians played a leading role in preparing ultra-radical, openly neo-Nazi subdivisions for Ukraine”, Mr Lavrov alleged.

Israel called Mr Lavrov’s comments "unforgivable" and "delusional", saying he was suggesting Jews were to blame for their own genocide. Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid calling the statement "scandalous and a horrible historical error".

"The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. The lowest level of racism against Jews is to blame Jews themselves for antisemitism," Mr Lapid said.

The criticism towards Moscow comes at a time when Israel has sought to take a neutral position in the war.

Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, said Mr Lavrov was "propagating the inversion of the Holocaust by turning the victims into criminals on the basis of promoting a completely unfounded claim that Hitler was of Jewish descent," it said in a statement.

"Equally serious is calling the Ukrainians in general, and President Zelensky in particular, Nazis. This, among other things, is a complete distortion of the history and an affront to the victims of Nazism," the memorial added.

Since the declaration of war, Ukrainian leaders have often called the Russian president a new-age Hitler for his unprovoked aggression, especially after his troops bombarded areas of Jewish importance, including the Babyn Yar mass murder site and Uman – a sacred site to Hasidic Orthodox Jews.

“This is just pure Nazi behaviour. I can’t even qualify this in any different manner,” Mr Zelensky told the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella organisation of Jewish groups, over a Zoom call on 7 March 2022.

Dmytro Kuleba, the foreign minister of the battered, war-torn country, added that Mr Putin’s actions remind Ukrainians of “the pattern of Adolf Hitler”.

Mr Zelensky has often used his own history to say that Ukraine is not the hate-filled nation that Mr Putin paints it to be. Mr Zelensky’s grandfather had reportedly fought in the Soviet Army against the Nazis, while other family members died in the Holocaust.

The Russian foreign minister claimed that the upcoming anniversary of Russia’s liberation at the end of World War II will have no impact on Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

“Our soldiers won't base their actions on a specific date. We'll commemorate our victory in a solemn manner but the timing and speed of what is happening in Ukraine will hinge on the need to minimise risks for civilians and Russian soldiers,” he added.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered.

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