Ukraine FM responds to Lavrov: ‘He can’t hide the deeply rooted antisemitism’

Dmytro Kuleba lashes out at Russian counterpart who said Hitler had ‘Jewish blood’ and Jews are among worst antisemites; Kyiv diplomat says Russians believe in their own supremacy

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is seen following a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, on April 7, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is seen following a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, on April 7, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Monday lashed out at his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, for saying Nazi leader Adolf Hitler “had Jewish blood” and that Jews are among the worst antisemites.

“This is the perverted logic of the Russian elite,” Kuleba said in a video statement sent to the Kan public broadcaster.

“Even Minister Lavrov, who knows what diplomacy is, cannot hide anymore the deeply rooted antisemitism — the antisemitism that is deeply rooted into Russian elites.”

“Let’s admit the fact that Russians hate other nations. They believe in the supremacy of their own nation over others, and this is why this regime must be stopped in its aggressive plans and actions,” he added.

Lavrov made the remarks during an interview with Italian television, in which he claimed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Jewishness did not undercut Russia’s claims that its invasion of Ukraine was meant to “denazify” the country.

“So when they say, ‘How can Nazification exist if we’re Jewish?’ In my opinion, Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean absolutely anything. For some time we have heard from the Jewish people that the biggest antisemites were Jewish,” he said, speaking to the station in Russian, dubbed over by an Italian translation.

Lavrov’s comments were also condemned on Monday by Israeli leaders.

“The aim of such lies is to blame the Jews themselves for the most terrible crimes in history that were committed against them, thus freeing from responsibility the oppressors of Israel,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement from his office.

Bennett’s denunciation followed stronger condemnation from Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and other Israeli ministers.

“This is an unforgivable and scandalous comment, a terrible historical error and we expect an apology,” Lapid said. “The Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. The lowest form of racism against Jews is blaming the Jews themselves for antisemitism.”

Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov speaks to the media at the Russian Consulate in Tel Aviv, on March 3, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)

Lapid said Russian Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov would be summoned for “a not-so-easy talk.” According to the Foreign Ministry, Viktorov was called in for a “clarification conversation.”

Russia’s embassy in Israel declined to comment on Lavrov’s statements or on the summons to the Foreign Ministry.

In Berlin, German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told reporters: “I think the Russian propaganda being spread here by Foreign Minister Lavrov needs no comment -– it’s absurd.”

Israel has avoided aligning too closely with either side since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24. It is one of the few countries that maintains relatively warm relations with both Ukraine, a fellow Western democracy, and Russia.

However, the rhetoric coming from Jerusalem shifted in the wake of reports of widespread civilian killings by the Russians, with Lapid explicitly accusing Russia of war crimes last month. Moscow has also recently publicly criticized Jerusalem, over its decision to supply defensive gear to Kyiv and a suggestion by Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine that streets be renamed in the Ukrainian capital for those who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

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