Israel summons Russian ambassador over anti-Jewish remarks

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The Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov on Monday, after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Hitler was Jew.”

In an interview with an Italian news program on Sunday, Lavrov said of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that “the fact that he is a Jew does not negate the Nazi elements in his country.”

“I believe that Adolf Hitler also had Jewish blood,” Lavrov said.

The Russian Foreign Minister later added that “the worst antisemites are the Jews.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that Lavrov’s remarks are “unforgivable and outrageous, and a terrible historic mistake.

 

Russian president Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov attend the Libya summit in Berlin, Germany, January 19, 2020 (credit: HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS)
“The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust,” Lapid said. “The basest level of racism against Jews is to blame the Jews themselves for antisemitism.”

Viktorov is expected to meet with Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Eurasia Gary Koren for clarifications.

Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan called Lavrov’s comments “The remarks of Russian FM Lavrov are absurd, dangerous and deserving condemnation.

“Lavrov is propagating the inversion of the Holocaust – turning the victims into the criminals on the basis of promoting a completely unfounded claim that Hitler was of Jewish descent,” Dayan stated. “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 a serious affront to the victims of Nazism.”

Welfare Minister Meir Cohen called Lavrov’s remarks “antisemitism of the lowest kind.”

“Antisemitism has not passed from the world, and occasionally, antisemites find an opportunity to repeat their terrible doctrine,” Cohen stated.

Russia has claimed that its invasion of Ukraine in February aimed to “denazify” the country.

“Zelensky can promote peace between the states if he stops giving orders to his Nazi forces,” Lavrov said in the interview on Sunday.

“Nazi forces” likely refers to the Azov Battalion of Ukraine’s National Guard defending Mariupol. The battalion grew out of a neo-Nazi group and still has extremist leadership and members and uses the Wolfsangel insignia used by Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht divisions during World War II. At the same time, there are members of the Azov Battalion of all backgrounds, including Jewish Ukrainians.

The Azov Battalion, which Russia has used to paint Ukraine as a country in need of “denazification,” has roughly 1,000 members, while there were 245,000 active Ukrainian military personnel at the outset of the war with Russia this year, and millions of adult males were required to remain in the country to help in the war effort.

Lavrov also remarked that the upcoming anniversary of Russia’s liberation at the end of World War II will have no bearing on Moscow’s military operations in Ukraine.

“Our soldiers won’t base their actions on a specific date,” Lavrov said when asked whether the May 9 anniversary would mark a turning point in the conflict.

“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 minimize risks for civilians and Russian soldiers,” he added, speaking in Russian through an Italian interpreter.

Lavrov also accused Ukraine of using mercenaries and Western military officers, without presenting any evidence to support his claims.

Over the weekend, a Kremlin-linked Telegram channel claimed that 10 Israeli officials who worked on the Ukraine-Poland border are mercenaries, publishing their names and passport details.

The list was published on a channel called “River” on the encrypted messaging app, and included diplomats, consular employees and embassy security guards, among others who helped receive Israelis who fled Ukraine over its border with Poland after Russia invaded.

The Foreign Ministry declined to confirm or comment on the matter. The only person on the list to comment publicly was Rishon Lezion Deputy Mayor Maksim Babitzky.

“It is not clear what happened, but it is clear that it is not worth going to Russia,” Babitzky told the Israeli Russian-language website Mig News.

Babitzky led a delegation from Rishon Lezion to the Ukraine-Poland border in early March, bringing food, clothing, medical supplies, diapers and more, according to the local newspaper Gal-Gefen.