In a Hebrew-language post to his Facebook page, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday urged Jewish people around the world to speak up as he accused Russia of of seeking to “erase” Ukrainians, their country and their history.
“I am now addressing all the Jews of the world. Don’t you see what is happening? That is why it is very important that millions of Jews around the world not remain silent right now,” wrote Zelensky, who is Jewish.
“Nazism is born in silence. So shout about killings of civilians. Shout about the murders of Ukrainians.”
He also referred to a Russian missile strike the day before on a television broadcaster building that hit near the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial site, causing damage to the surrounding area.
“We all were bombed last night in Kyiv, and we all died again at Babyn Yar from the missile attack, even though the world pledges ‘Never again,'” he wrote.
“You are killing the victims of the Holocaust again,” he wrote.
On the first day of the war there was “massive shelling” of Uman, Zelensky continued, referring to the town that is a Jewish pilgrimage site due to hosting the grave of a famous Hasidic rabbi.
“The place where hundreds and thousands of Jews come each year to pray. After that, they attack Babyn Yar,” he said.
“They know nothing about our capital. About our history. But they have an order to erase our history. Erase our country. Erase us all,” he said of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion force.
In an earlier video address aimed at Ukraine’s citizens, the Ukrainian leader made similar claims, saying the missile strike near Babyn Yar shows that “for many people in Russia our Kyiv is completely foreign.”
The attack on Tuesday night damaged Kyiv’s main television mast, which was built alongside Babyn Yar, the site of World War II’s biggest slaughter of Kyiv Jews and a place of memorial and pilgrimage.
Five people were killed in the strike itself, according to Ukrainian authorities, and for Zelensky the symbolism of the location underlined the Russian threat to Ukrainian identity.
“What will be next if even Babi Yar [is hit], what other ‘military’ objects, ‘NATO bases’ are threatening Russia? St. Sophia’s Cathedral, Lavra, Andrew’s Church?” he asked, referring to sites in Kyiv held sacred by Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox believers around the world.
Under Soviet rule, the Ukrainian president charged, authorities had built the TV tower and a sports complex on a “special part of Europe, a place of prayer, a place of remembrance.”
“Outbuildings. They built a park there. To erase the true history of Babi Yar… This is beyond humanity,” he declared.
Israeli and Jewish officials have sharply criticized the Russian missile attack.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Israel “denounced the damage,” but pointedly refrained from identifying Russia as having caused it.
Israel has been noticeably reticent in blaming Moscow for the invasion of its neighbor due to concerns over security cooperation with Russia in Syria.
Russian officials have frequently repeated the false claim that Ukraine requires “denazifying,” using the unsubstantiated allegation as a pretext for the invasion.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.