Israel has denounced Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for suggesting that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins, accusing the top Russian diplomat of spreading anti-Semitism and demanding an apology from Moscow.
The Israeli foreign ministry said Lavrov's comments were “ghastly,” and stated that it summoned Russian Ambassador to Tel Aviv Anatoly Viktorov for “a tough talk” over the statements.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has demanded an apology from Lavrov over his comments, which were made on Sunday in an interview with an Italian television channel.
Lapid said that to claim Hitler was of Jewish descent was like saying Jews had killed themselves, adding that accusing Jews of being anti-Semites was "the basest level of racism."
“His words are untrue and their intentions are wrong,” Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett also said.
“The use of the Holocaust of the Jewish people for political purposes must stop immediately,” he added.
During his interview with Italy's Rete 4 channel, Lavrov was asked how Russia could say it needed to "de-Nazify" Ukraine, when the country's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was Jewish.
“When they say 'What sort of Nazification is this if we are Jews', well I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing,” Lavrov said, speaking through an Italian interpreter.
"For a long time now we've been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites are the Jews themselves," he added.
On April 21, Viktorov warned that Moscow will introduce retaliatory measures against Israel in case the Tel Aviv regime supplies Ukraine with military equipment and aid amid the military conflict there.
“We are carefully checking this information and will respond accordingly if it is confirmed,” Viktorov told Russian state television at the time.
Earlier last month, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Israeli Ambassador to Moscow Alexander Ben Zvi after Tel Aviv denounced Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
It came after Lapid accused Russia of committing “war crimes” in Ukraine, alleging that there was no “justification” for Russia’s military campaign against its western neighbor.
“Russian forces committed war crimes against a defenseless civilian population. I condemn these war crimes,” Lapid said.
Israel voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution suspending the Russian Federation’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council.
Reacting to the vote, the Russian foreign ministry called the resolution “unlawful and politically motivated.”
It also called the Israeli regime’s support for it “a thinly veiled attempt to take advantage of the situation around Ukraine in order to divert the attention of the international community from one of the oldest unresolved conflicts — the Palestinian-Israeli one.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, following Moscow’s recognition of self-declared Lugansk and Donetsk republics, collectively known as the Donbass. The two breakaway regions, located in eastern Ukraine, are largely populated by ethnic Russians.
The ongoing conflict has provoked a unanimous response from Western countries, which have imposed a long list of sanctions on Moscow.
US President Joe Biden termed the Russian action “unprovoked and unjustified attack,” and the American media described it as the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two.
Russia, however, has time and again said that it would halt the operation instantly if Kiev met its list of demands, including never applying to join NATO.
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