Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the Russian airstrike which took place Monday, taking out the Holocaust memorial site Babi Yar, in the nation’s capital, Kyiv.
Speaking in a news conference on Tuesday, Zelenskyy said, “This is beyond humanity. Such missile strike means that, for many Russians, our Kyiv is absolute foreign. They know nothing about our capital, about our history. They have orders to erase our history, our country and all of us”, AP reported. He added, “Russian mothers are losing their children in an absolute foreign country for them”, before sharing that nearly 6,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since President Vladimir Putin sent in troops in an attempt to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine.
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Zelenskyy asserted that no matter the body count on the Russian side, it would not be possible for them to get Ukraine. As per Kyiv Independent, he said, “This is not to be changed by missiles, bombs, tanks, any strikes. We are in our native land. And for the war against us there will be an International Tribunal for them”.
The attack on Babi Yar also led Zelenskyy to wonder what other spots could be targeted by Moscow for airstrikes. AP reported him asking, “What will be next if even Babi Yar (is hit), what other ‘military’ objects, ‘NATO bases’ are threatening Russia? Sophie’s Cathedral, Lavra, Andrew’s Church? Whatever they dream about. Damn them”.
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Notably, Putin has used World War II analogy throughout, to justify sending troops into Ukraine, leading Zelenskyy to point to his own Jewish heritage. While Putin has banked on Russia’s lingering hatred for Nazis, Zelenskyy has noted how his family members perished during the holocaust.
While Russian officials have compared Zelenskyy to Jews who collaborated with Nazis, Ukrainian officials have appropriated the Nazi analogy for Russian attacks as well. Both Kyiv and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s capital and second-largest city, respectively, were last shelled during World War II on German dictator Adolf Hitler’s orders. The next person to have issued such orders is Putin. Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba’s tweets echoed this, saying, “Horrific Russian rocket strikes on Kyiv. Last time our capital experienced anything like this was in 1941 when it was attacked by Nazi Germany. Ukraine defeated that evil and will defeat this one. Stop Putin. Isolate Russia. [Sever] all ties. Kick Russia out of [everywhere]”.
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Ukrainian authorities have claimed that the strike which damaged Kyiv’s Holocaust memorial also hit the area near a TV tower, killing five civilians.