After the statements by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about "Jewish anti-Semites" and "Nazism" in the political leadership of Ukraine, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj spoke up.

Lavrov had said in a television interview with a view to Ukraine: "The clever Jewish people say that the most zealous anti-Semites are usually Jews." Hitler also had Jewish roots.

Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

  • Follow I follow

Frederick Smith

Political correspondent for Russia and the CIS in Moscow.

  • Follow I follow

Selenskyj, who is of Jewish origin himself, said: "I'm at a loss for words." He sees Lavrov's statements, a "great expert on Hitlerism", as an example of the decline in Russia's reputation.

The Russian leadership had "forgotten all the lessons of the Second World War," Zelensky said in a video message on Tuesday night.

"Or maybe they never learned those lessons."

Lavrov's words meant "that Russia's top diplomat is shifting the blame for Nazi crimes onto the Jewish people."

Zelenskyy recalled that Russian attacks hit the Holocaust memorials in Kyiv and near Kharkiv.

The fact that Ukrainians from the Russian-occupied Mariupol are now being put into so-called filtration camps and others are being "deported as free labour" is "no coincidence", according to the President.

"Clear manifesto of mendacity and meanness"

Kiev Chief Rabbi Moshe Asman called Lavrov's statements on Ukrainian television "very dangerous".

Viktor Pinchuk, one of the country's biggest entrepreneurs, called Lavrov's words "a clear manifesto of mendacity and meanness".

Pinchuk, who apparently returned to Kyiv from abroad, published a picture of himself in front of the house in downtown Kiev "from which my Jewish grandfather left in 1941 to fight (as a Red Army soldier) against Hitler".

At that time the Nazis committed genocide against the Jews;

today the "racists" committed genocide against the Ukrainians.

"Racists" is a neologism that ties in with the English word "Russia" (Russia).

The thesis that a "Nazi regime" rules in Ukraine is intended to convince the Russians not to fight against the Ukrainian "brother people" but against absolute evil ("denazification").

Moscow is told that right-wing extremist parties have only played a marginal role in Ukraine since 1991 and that there are a number of politicians with Jewish roots.

Among them is Prime Minister Volodymyr Hrojsman, who will be in office until 2019.

In the interview, Zelenskyi also defended fighters from the Azov nationalist volunteer battalion.

You used to be “very radical” towards Russia.

But since the unit's incorporation into the official National Guard, "those who wanted to do politics left the unit and are now doing politics."

Kyiv “takes radical calls very seriously and we stop such things.

But what Russia is doing here is Nazism.”

Israel's Foreign Minister Jair Lapid on Tuesday called Lavrov's words "unforgivable and scandalous" and called for an apology.

"The Jews did not murder themselves during the Holocaust."

But apologies are not customary in Moscow.

On Tuesday, Russia's Foreign Ministry accused Lapid of an "anti-Russian statement" and a "course of support for the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv."

The article "On Antisemitism" emphasizes that there are "tragic examples of Jewish collaboration with the Nazis".

Reference is made to the Jewish councils that the Germans had forced to set up in the areas they occupied.

During World War II, the ministry said, "some Jews co-operated in crimes under duress," but Zelenskyy "does it fully consciously and entirely voluntarily."

In addition to thousands of civilians, as far as is known, two Holocaust survivors died during the Russian offensive: In March, 96-year-old Boris Romanchenko was killed when his Kharkiv apartment was shelled, and in April, 91-year-old Wanda Objedkova died in a cellar in Mariupol, where she had sought protection from the Russian besiegers.

Russia had had a fairly good relationship with Israel in the past;

former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a frequent guest in Moscow.