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Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Picture: EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/REUTERS
Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Picture: EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/REUTERS

Russia’s foreign ministry accused Israel on Tuesday of supporting “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine, escalating a row that began when Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov claimed Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins.

Israel said on Monday Lavrov’s comment was an “unforgivable” falsehood that tried to minimise the horrors of the Holocaust — the murder of 6-million European Jews and other minority groups by Nazi Germany.

Leaders from several Western nations denounced Lavrov, who had been asked how Russia could be pursuing its stated goal of “denazifying” Ukraine when President Volodymyr Zelensky himself has Jewish heritage. Zelensky, whose country is a parliamentary democracy, accused Russia of having forgotten the lessons of World War 2.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid’s comments were “anti-historical” and “explain to a large extent why the current Israeli government supports the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv”.

Moscow reiterated Lavrov’s point that Zelensky’s Jewish origins did not preclude Ukraine being run by neo-Nazis.

“Anti-Semitism in everyday life and in politics is not stopped and is on the contrary nurtured (in Ukraine),” it said in a statement.

Israel has expressed support for Ukraine and sent humanitarian aid following the Russian invasion in February. But wary of damaging relations with Russia, a power broker in neighbouring Syria, it initially avoided direct criticism of Moscow and has not enforced formal sanctions on Russian oligarchs.

However, ties have grown more strained, with Lapid in April accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

“After the Kremlin claimed that Israel supports Nazism, I have just one question. Is there any non-Nazi country in the whole world in Russia’s point of view? Except Syria, Belarus and Eritrea, of course,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted on Tuesday, mentioning countries that have supported what Moscow calls its “special operation” in Ukraine.

In a speech at the end of March to the Israeli parliament, Zelensky called on Israel to “make a choice” by supporting Ukraine against Russia, and asked the Jewish state to provide it with weapons.



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