Doubling Down on Lavrov Comments, Russia Accuses Israel of Backing ‘Neo-Nazis’ in Ukraine
Diplomatic tensions between Israel and Russia deepened on Tuesday after the Russian foreign ministry accused Jerusalem of supporting “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine, as it doubled down on Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s earlier assertion that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood.”
In a reply to Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s condemnation of Lavrov’s “unforgivable and outrageous” comments, the foreign ministry in Moscow stated that Lapid’s “anti-historical” reaction explained “to a large extent why the current Israeli government supports the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv.”
The statement repeated the Russian government’s insistence that Ukraine is governed by neo-Nazis, despite the fact that President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish. “How can there be Nazism in Ukraine if he is a Jew? I may be mistaken but Adolf Hitler had Jewish blood, too,” Lavrov claimed in his original interview with an Italian broadcaster. “This means absolutely nothing. The wise Jewish people say that the most ardent antisemites are usually Jews.”
The furious reaction from Israeli and western leaders to Lavrov’s remarks did little to shift the Russian position, with the foreign ministry listing a series of alleged Ukrainian offenses against Jews. “Despite the existence of the law ‘On Preventing and Combating Antisemitism in Ukraine,’ its norms do not apply,” the ministry’s statement said.
“Everyday and political antisemitism is not suppressed, on the contrary, it is nurtured,” the Russian statement continued. It accused the Ukrainian authorities of ignoring antisemitic chants at marches staged by ultranationalist groups, saying this was “specially immoral for a country that lost 1.5 million Jews during the Holocaust, and on the territory of the capital of which there is a memorial to those who died in Babi Yar.” The Babi Yar site — a ravine outside Kyiv where more than 33,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis in Sept. 1941 — was hit by a Russian missile strike during the first week of the war.
Anger at Lavrov’s comments continued to register on Tuesday, with several Jewish groups censuring the Russian foreign minister.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations accused Lavrov of “a blatant violation of the broadly recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism — the most authoritative and internationally accepted definition of antisemitism — which highlights examples of contemporary antisemitism, such as Holocaust distortion and denial and accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for wrongdoing committed by others.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) meanwhile demanded that Lavrov “acknowledge and retract his lies and apologize to the Jewish people, Ukraine, and to an entire generation who fought and died to defeat Hitler and the Nazis.”
In a separate statement, Michael Schudrich — the chief rabbi of Poland — wondered aloud at the implications of Lavrov’s original comments.
“Whether this provocative statement was just a misstep or whether it was an ominous sign of a new Kremlin policy towards Jews, remains to be seen,” Schudrich told The Algemeiner in an email.