Estonian PM: Putin ‘undermining the sufferings’ of Jews with ‘denazification’ claims

Kaja Kallas says Israel ‘could be more vocal’ in speaking out against Russian leader, warns world not to make ‘mistake’ of failing to punish him for invading Ukraine

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas speaks during a press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the occasion of their meeting, in Tallinn, Estonia, March 8, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/Pool Photo via AP)
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas speaks during a press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the occasion of their meeting, in Tallinn, Estonia, March 8, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/Pool Photo via AP)

Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has rejected the idea of pushing for “peace at any price” with Moscow amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “undermining the sufferings” of Jews,  urging Israel to speak out against his claims of “denazification.”

In an interview given to Axios this week, Kallas said the international community should not repeat past mistakes of pushing for a ceasefire and should instead seek to penalize Putin for his crimes, warning that a failure to do so may cause his “appetite” to grow.

“If he is not punished for the crimes committed, then he will just go on. There will be a pause of one year, two years and when he gets his act together, it will all repeat in a much harder or harsher way,” she told Israeli reporter Barak Ravid.

“We have already made this mistake twice,” she added, referring to Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in Ukraine in 2014.

Kallas, 44, has become one of Europe’s most vocal critics of Putin since the February invasion.

The leader of a NATO ally that borders Russia and was part of the Soviet Union until achieving independence in 1991, the Estonian prime minister has found herself in the difficult position of publicly condemning the Russian invasion while potentially being caught in the crossfire if Putin were to extend his offensive beyond Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, April 6, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Other Baltic states have previously expressed concern that if Russia is not stopped in Ukraine, it could become more aggressive.

Kallas cited statements from other NATO members, including the United States, declaring “every inch” of the alliance’s territory will be defended in case of a Russian attack.

“We have no doubt about this. No NATO country has ever been attacked. So we feel safe,” she told Axios, noting she was working to enhance NATO presence in her country.

She stressed, however, that more needs to be done in order to aid Ukraine.

“We can give more military aid, we can give more humanitarian aid and also politically isolate Russia in order for this to stop,” she said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly urged the international community to provide his war-stricken country with additional military aid.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas give a press conference on the occasion of their meeting, in Tallinn, Estonia, March 8, 2022. Blinken was meeting with senior Estonian officials in Tallinn on Tuesday, a day after hearing appeals from both Lithuania and Latvia for more support and greater US and NATO troop presence to deter a feared Russian intervention. (AP Photo/Raul Mee)

Israel has rejected Zelensky’s pleas time and again, citing its sensitive ties with Russia over military coordination in Syria.

Asked about the Israeli neutral position in regard to the war in Ukraine, Kallas told Axios that Israel should take a clearer stand against Putin in light of his World War II evocations.

“One thing maybe that is very specific to Israel is that Putin is using this argument of denazification. And I think it deeply undermines the sufferings of your people, and you could be more vocal about this and saying that this is not OK,” she said.

Israel has criticized Ukraine for making Holocaust analogies.

Following Zelensky’s speech to the Knesset last month, Israeli lawmakers accused the Ukrainian president of trying “to rewrite history and erase the involvement of the Ukrainian people in the extermination of Jews,” while criticizing him for comparing the suffering of his people to that of the Jews during Holocaust.

Kallas’s interview comes as Moscow faces international outrage over what appears to be the mass killing of Ukrainian civilians in the town of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv.

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