Zelensky: Putin is the ‘second king of antisemitism after Hitler’

The Ukrainian president condemned his Russian counterpart after Putin had said his friends told him Zelensky was a “disgrace” to the Jewish people.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told a BBC interviewer Wednesday that Russian leader Vladimir Putin was one of the most terrible antisemites in history.

“It’s like he doesn’t fully understand his words,” Zelensky said. “Apologies, but it’s like he is the second king of antisemitism after Hitler. This is a president speaking. A civilized world cannot speak that way. But it was important for me to hear the reaction of the world and I am grateful for the support.”

Zelensky also made a point of mentioning that Israel was not one of the countries that condemned Putin’s statement. The silence was criticized by various senior Ukrainian officials, including the head of the president’s office, Andriy Yermak, who said Tuesday that he “expected” Israel’s top political echelon to respond to the “insulting words.”

Speaking at an economic forum in St. Petersburg Friday, Putin had said that “a lot” of his Jewish friends had told him that his Ukrainian foe “is not Jewish, that he is a disgrace to the Jewish people.” He then reiterated one of his major claims for having begun the war, that the country promoted Nazism, saying Kyiv puts “neo-Nazis” on “a pedestal belonging to Ukrainian heroes, who continued Adolf Hitler’s work.”

Among others who criticized Putin’s statements, Deborah Lipstadt, the Biden administration’s antisemitism monitor, had tweeted in response, “President Zelensky’s Jewishness has nothing to do with the situation in Ukraine and Putin’s continued focus on this topic and ‘denazification’ narrative is clearly intended to distract from Russia’s war of aggression against the Ukrainian people.”

First Lady Olena Zelenska told The Jerusalem Post in her own interview Tuesday that Putin’s words were “very disgraceful. I don’t know how, in the political context, you can discuss someone’s ethnicity at all.”

The Ukrainian president is in fact fully Jewish, having been born to two Jewish parents. He takes particular offense at the Nazi comparisons, since his grandfather was the only survivor of the Holocaust out of his immediate family. His grandfather’s three brothers and parents were all murdered by the Germans during World War II.

Zelenska is in Israel on a week-long trip after being invited by President Isaac Herzog’s wife, Michal. The two are working together to help Ukrainians who suffer from mental health problems stemming from the 16-month-old Russian invasion of its southern neighbor. Israel has trained more than 2,000 Ukrainian mental health personnel so far, and Zelenska visited several mental health centers as well as physically wounded Ukrainian soldiers recovering in Israeli hospitals.

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