Speaking during his nightly video address, the 44-year-old said, “Such an anti-Semitic thrust by their minister means Russia has forgotten all the lessons of World War II. Or maybe they never studied those lessons.”
The minister being referred to by Zelensky is none other than Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who had earlier claimed that Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood” and that suggested that Jews themselves were anti-Semites.
“He [Zelensky] puts forward an argument: what kind of Nazism can they have if he is a Jew. I may be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. It means absolutely nothing. The wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews,” Lavrov had said a day ago.
The Russian foreign minister’s comment not only led to outrage in Ukraine, but also sparked condemnation from Israel.
“Foreign Minister Lavrov’s remarks are both an unforgivable and outrageous statement as well as a terrible historical error,” Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid said on Monday, responding to the Russian claims.
“Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of anti-Semitism,” Lapid added, not mincing his words.
Zelensky on Monday addressed the comments by Lapid too, saying, “Of course, there is a big scandal in Israel today as regards [to] these words. However, no one hears objections or excuses from Moscow. There is silence.”
The 44-year-old actor-turned-leader went on to remind Russia that May 9, the day Moscow celebrates victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, is around the corner, saying, “How could this be said on the eve of the anniversary of the victory over Nazism?”
“These words mean that Russia’s top diplomat is blaming the Jewish people for Nazi crimes. No words,” the Ukrainian president concluded.
Nazism in Ukraine was one of the reasons cited by Russian President Vladimir Putin to justify the invasion, which began on February 24. Putin had claimed that the invasion was a special operation to “de-nazify” Ukraine, but Kyiv has consistently denied allegations of widespread Nazism in the country.