‘PUTIN IS HITLER’: Anti-Russia protesters in Israel blast ‘fascist’ leader

Holding Ukrainian flags and calling Vladimir Putin a fascist and a Nazi, the crowds chanted against the Russian invasion and demanded that Israel do more to support Ukraine.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Thousands demonstrated Saturday night in Tel Aviv and close to another thousand gathered in Haifa to protest Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine and demand more action from the Israeli government.

Many, former citizens of Ukraine or Russia, held signs in Russian as well as in Hebrew and English condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin, with some comparing him to Adolf Hitler.

The protesters waved the Ukrainian flag and chanted such slogans as, “Putin, fascist,” and “Putin, get out of Ukraine.”

They also demanded that Jerusalem openly condemn the Kremlin, something that the government has yet to do, apparently in fear of Moscow canceling its quiet cooperation with Israel’s efforts against Iranian forces in Syria.

In Tel Aviv, the protestors gathered around Habima Square when police cordoned off the street leading to the Russian embassy. Several spoke to Hebrew media about their anger over the war, their fear for their relatives in their home countries, and why they believe Israel should do more to help Ukraine.

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Michael, 23, from Ukraine, told Walla, “We have to stop Putin. It’s important that Israel help. The Israelis must understand that the war is not just against Ukraine, but against the whole democratic world.”

Interviewed by Israel Hayom, Ina Bikhovsky, whose son is stuck near Kharkiv in the Ukraine, said, “The world must stop the killer Putin. Whoever can help and has a human heart must help us. These are the darkest and most difficult days since World War II…. If [Putin] will not be arrested, this will be a tragedy for generations.”

Demonstrator Yulia Manis Groll posted a video of herself on social media burning her Russian passport as a graphic act of protest.

Asked by Ynet if she was afraid of retaliation against her close relatives still in Russia, she answered, “I hope not, but I see the courage of people who are going out to demonstrate … in dozens of cities all over Russia, that’s real courage….

“What we are doing here, there’s no danger. I salute them.”

Vicky Lomberg, a Russian immigrant who came from Be’er Sheba to protest with her Ukrainian-born husband, confirmed Groll’s thinking to the news site.

“In Russia, the people are afraid of the president,” she said.

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“My family in Russia is afraid to speak out against him. In Russia there is no news from other countries but only the government stations. There is a lot of censorship, and the people in Russia are showing a war against terrorists.”

Vladimir Betuashvili, meanwhile, focused on the personal angle, having two sons and two grandsons still in Ukraine.

“I haven’t slept in three days,” he said. “I talk to the children all the time and am afraid for my grandchildren, who are crying all the time. They’re in a shelter and are afraid to go out.

“They have food left for another day or two, because the Ukrainian soldiers have emptied the shops.”

In Haifa, Kirill Karetnik, who came to Israel over 10 years ago from Ukraine and is now a member of the city council, was one of the organizers of the smaller demonstration in his city.  He told Israel Hayom that he still has family and friends in Ukraine and feels their pain during “these terrible events.”

“I cannot stand by and watch indifferently what is happening,” he said. “There is much more than just politics and strategies and alliances. There are people here in this story who have lost their homes and all they want is peace.”

At the Sunday morning cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said, “On behalf of all citizens of Israel, I would like to express the hope that this conflict be resolved before the war develops further and the humanitarian consequences will be much worse than we can even imagine.

“We are praying for the wellbeing of the citizens of Ukraine and hope that additional bloodshed will be avoided. We are conducting a measured and responsible policy.”

He added that Israel is sending humanitarian aid to Ukraine and that the cabinet “will hold a comprehensive discussion of the implications of the situation for Israel” later in the evening.