Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Sunday said that the fact that Ukraine’s president is Jewish does not contradict Moscow’s claims that it launched the invasion to “denazify” the country, claiming that even Hitler “had Jewish blood.”
In an interview with Italian news channel Zona Bianca, Lavrov was asked how Russian President Vladimir Putin could claim he was trying to “denazify” Ukraine when Volodymyr Zelensky, the country’s democratically elected president, was Jewish.
“So what if Zelensky is Jewish. The fact does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine. I believe that Hitler also had Jewish blood,” Lavrov said, adding that “some of the worst antisemites are Jews.”
Persistent conspiracy theories that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had some Jewish ancestry that may have motivated his antisemitism and the murder of six million Jews have been repeatedly debunked by historians.
Announcing the invasion, Putin said that the “special military operation” would seek the “denazification” of its sovereign neighbor. Russian media has repeatedly sought to portray Ukraine as being aligned with Nazism, without evidence to support such accusations.
The head of Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, Dani Dayan, condemned Lavrov’s remarks, which came in the same week that Israel commemorates the Holocaust, calling his words “false, delusional and dangerous, and worthy of all condemnation.”
Yad Vashem and other groups representing survivors had previously condemned Russia’s claim that Ukraine needed to be “denazified” as “not based on fact, it distorts and trivializes the Holocaust, and we deplore it.”
In the interview, Lavrov also accused the US of torpedoing peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv and accused the Western media of distorted coverage of the war and painting “distorted views of me.”
But he said Zelensky still had the power to end the war if he “stopped giving criminal orders to his Nazi forces.”
Lavrov’s comments came after Zelensky met with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Kyiv, and called the meeting a powerful signal of support in a difficult time.
In a televised address on Sunday evening, Zelensky said his meeting with Pelosi included discussions of defense supplies to Ukraine, financial support and sanctions against Russia.
Pelosi and a half dozen US lawmakers met with Zelensky and his top aides for about three hours late Saturday to voice American solidarity with the besieged nation and get a first-hand assessment as she works to steer a massive new Ukraine aid package through Congress.
Zelensky said Ukrainians “are grateful to all partners who send such important and powerful signals of support by visiting our capital at such a difficult time.”
Additionally, Zelensky estimated that more than 350,000 people had been evacuated from combat zones thanks to humanitarian corridors pre-arranged with Moscow since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. Many civilians were evacuated Sunday from at a steel plant in the bombed-out city of Mariupol.
As many as 100,000 people are believed to still be in blockaded Mariupol, including up to 1,000 civilians who were hunkered down with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters beneath the Soviet-era steel plant — the only part of the city not occupied by the Russians.
However, the fate of the Ukrainian fighters still hunkered down in the plant was not immediately clear.
Mariupol has seen some of the worst suffering of the war. A maternity hospital was hit with a lethal Russian airstrike in the opening weeks of the war, and about 300 people were reported killed in the bombing of a theater where civilians were taking shelter.
Zelensky also accused Moscow of waging “a war of extermination,” saying Russian shelling had hit food, grain and fertilizer warehouses, and residential neighborhoods in the Kharkiv, Donbas and other regions.
“What could be Russia’s strategic success in this war? Honestly, I do not know. The ruined lives of people and the burned or stolen property will give nothing to Russia,” he said.
Russian forces have embarked on a major military operation to seize significant parts of southern and eastern Ukraine following their failure to capture the capital, Kyiv. Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov, is a key target because of its strategic location near the Crimea Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.