Russia says Israel supports neo-Nazis in row over Ukraine

File photo. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) meets with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid (L) in Moscow, Russia, 9 September 2021. Israeli Foreign Minister is on a working visit in Moscow. [EPA-EFE/ALEXANDER NEMENOV/POOL]

Russia’s foreign ministry accused Israel on Tuesday (3 May) of supporting neo-Nazis in Ukraine, further escalating a row which began when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins.

Israel lambasted Lavrov on Monday, saying his claim – made when talking about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who is Jewish – was an “unforgivable” falsehood that debased the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust.

Israel demands apology after Lavrov says Hitler had Jewish roots

Israel denounced Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday (2 May) for suggesting that Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins, accusing Lavrov of spreading anti-Semitism and belittling the Holocaust.

Lavrov made the Hitler assertion on Italian television on Sunday when he was asked why Russia said it needed to “denazify” Ukraine if the country’s own president, was himself Jewish.

“When they say ‘What sort of nazification is this if we are Jews’, well I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing,” Lavrov said, speaking through an Italian interpreter.

“For a long time now we’ve been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites are the Jews themselves,” he added.

Leaders from several Western nations denounced Lavrov’s comments and Zelenskyy accused Russia of having forgotten the lessons of World War Two.

Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid stated that “the lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of antisemitism”.

The Russian ministry said in a statement that Lapid’s comments were “anti-historical” and “explaining to a large extent why the current Israeli government supports the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv”.

Moscow reiterated Lavrov’s point that Zelenskyy’s Jewish origins did not preclude Ukraine from being run by neo-Nazis.

“Antisemitism in everyday life and in politics is not stopped and is on the contrary nurtured (in Ukraine),” it said in a statement.

The Russian foreign ministry provides examples to illustrate Lavrov’s thesis that Jews were guilty of anti-Semite crimes.

“In Poland and other countries of Eastern Europe, the Germans appointed Jewish industrialists as heads of ghettos and Jewish councils (“Judenrats”), some of whom are remembered for absolutely monstrous deeds. Jakub Leikin in Warsaw conducted surveillance of the Jews and reported everything to the German occupation administration, dooming his compatriots to certain, and sometimes painful death, and Chaim Rumkowski offered the Jews of Lodz to give their children to the Nazis in exchange for saving the lives of adult residents of the ghetto”, the foreign ministry writes.

“The Jewish origin of the president is not a guarantee of protection from rampant neo-Nazism in the country. Ukraine, by the way, is not the only one like this now. The President of Latvia, Egils Levits, also has Jewish roots. And he also “successfully” covers up the rehabilitation of the Waffen SS in his country”, Lavrov’s ministry goes further.

For many years Russia has accused Latvia and Estonia of Nazi glorification. The respective countries deny that gatherings of World War II veterans were Nazi glorification.

Estonia fends off Russian accusations of ‘Nazi glorification’

Russia has reacted angrily to a recent gathering in Estonia of World War II veterans attended by the defence minister, saying Estonia was "glorifying" Nazi Waffen SS veterans. Talinn insisted that the event had “nothing in common with recognising Nazism”.

Russia also accused Israel of looking the other way in cases when monuments to the Soviet army were painted and vandalised in various European countries.

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“Lapid and his cabinet don’t see this? Just as cynically they ignore the epidemic of destruction and desecration of monuments to the real righteous people of the world – the soldiers of the Red Army who stopped the Holocaust and saved the Jewish world. How many times did the Israeli Foreign Ministry made sharp protests on this occasion from the ambassadors of Poland, Bulgaria, the Baltic countries, the same Ukraine?”

Israel has expressed support for Ukraine following the Russian invasion in February. But wary of damaging relations with Russia, a powerbroker in neighbouring Syria, it initially avoided direct criticism of Moscow and has not enforced formal sanctions on Russian oligarchs.

However, ties have grown more strained, with Lapid last month accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

(Edited by Georgi Gotev)

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