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Russia doubles down on Hitler remarks, says Israel supports neo-Nazis

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference after his meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Moscow, Russia, on April 26, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Russia says Israel is supporting "the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev", raising the stakes in its tensions with Tel Aviv over the raging war in Ukraine. 

The spat began after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking to Italian outlet Mediaset's Rete 4 channel in an interview released Sunday, said that Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins. 

Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid on Monday accused Lavrov of making an "unforgivable and outrageous statement as well as a terrible historical error" and summoned Moscow's ambassador for "clarifications".

"We have paid attention to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid's anti-historical remarks, which largely explain the current government's decision to support the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev," said the Russian foreign ministry in a statement on Tuesday.

"History unfortunately knows tragic examples of cooperation between Jews and Nazis," it said.

In his interview, Lavrov said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "puts forward an argument of what kind of Nazism can they have if he himself is Jewish".

Lavrov, according to a transcript posted on the Russian foreign ministry website, then added: "I could be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood".

Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett characterized Lavrov's remarks as "lies" that he said effectively "accuse the Jews themselves of the most awful crimes in history", perpetrated against themselves.

On Tuesday, the Russian foreign ministry said "the Jewish origins of the president (Zelensky) is not a guarantee of protection against rampant neo-Nazism in the country".

"Ukraine, may it be said in passing, is not the only one in this case," the ministry said, citing Latvian President Egils Levits who "has also Jewish roots and he also gives cover... to the rehabilitation of the Waffen SS in his country". 

Israel has expressed solidarity with Ukraine but unlike its Western allies, it has refrained from enforcing formal sanctions on Russia over its military operation in the neighboring country.

Last month, Lapid accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Moscow hit back, accusing Israel of using Ukraine to “distract” the world from its ongoing aggression against Palestinians. 

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