Russia’s foreign ministry accused Israel on Tuesday of supporting neo-Nazis in Ukraine, further escalating a row which began when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins.
Israel lambasted Lavrov on Monday, saying his claim – made when talking about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy who is Jewish – was an “unforgivable” falsehood that debased the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust.
Leaders from several Western nations denounced Lavrov’s comments and Zelenskiy accused Russia of having forgotten the lessons of World War Two.
The Russian ministry said in a statement that Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s comments were “anti-historical” and “explaining to a large extent why the current Israeli government supports the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv”.
Moscow reiterated Lavrov’s point that Zelenskiy’s Jewish origins did not preclude Ukraine from being run by neo-Nazis.
“Antisemitism in everyday life and in politics is not stopped and is on the contrary nurtured (in Ukraine),” it said in a statement.
Lavrov made the Hitler assertion on Italian television on Sunday when he was asked why Russia said it needed to “denazify” Ukraine if the country’s own president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was himself Jewish.
Israel has expressed support for Ukraine following the Russian invasion in February. But wary of damaging relations with Russia, a powerbroker 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 last month accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine.