Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared to equate the Russian invasion of his country to the Holocaust on Sunday, accusing Moscow of using the “language of the final solution” during a live-streamed video address to Israeli lawmakers.
“Listen to the words of the Kremlin. They are using the terminology of the Nazis,” Zelensky declared. “The final solution to the Jewish question you well remember. Listen to what they are now saying in Moscow. Now these words are being used again, the Final Solution, but now it is directed at us, on the issue of Ukraine. They are speaking about this openly on official sites and in the media.”
Alleging that Russia is seeking to uproot Ukrainian independence, culture and national identity, Zelenskyy said that a direct comparison can be made between Jewish and Ukrainian experiences and pointed out that the Russian invasion came 102 years to the day after Adolf Hitler presented the Nazi party platform on February 24, 1920.
“We are in different countries and under completely different conditions, but the threat we face is one,” Zelenskyy asserted. The Nazis, he said, murdered millions of people, while Russia has succeeded in killing thousands in only a matter of weeks, carrying out airstrikes against the Babi Yar massacre site and the pilgrimage city of Uman.
“Russia's invasion of Ukraine is not just a military operation as it is presented in Moscow, it is a total and unjust war which is meant to destroy our people," Zelenskyy told lawmakers. "The Russian army is deliberately destroying and the whole world is watching. Therefore, I can make this parallel or comparison of our history and your history.”
“We want to live but our neighbors want to see us dead,” he said, quoting Kyiv-born Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. “It does not give us much room for compromise.”
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Since the beginning of the war, Israel has taken great pains not to upset Russia, stating that its reticence to engage in a full-throated defense of Ukraine was necessary both for Israeli security interests and because Jerusalem needs to remain a credible intermediary between Kyiv and Moscow.
Zelenskyy brushed aside those concerns, however, demanding that Israel arm Ukraine and remove limits on Ukrainian immigration imposed since the invasion.
“I am sure you feel our pain, but could you explain why we are still calling the whole world, many countries, and asking for help. We are now asking you for help or at the very least visas,” he said, referring to Israeli limits on Ukrainian refugees imposed after the invasion.
“What is this? Apathy? Calculations? Or mediation without taking a side? I’ll let you answer that question, but I want to point out that apathy kills, calculations can be incorrect. You can mediate between countries, but not between good and evil,” he said.
"We can ask why we can’t receive weapons from you, why Israel has not imposed powerful sanctions on Russia or putting pressure on Russian business. Either way, the choice is yours to make, brothers and sisters, and you must then live with your answer, the people of Israel," Zelenskyy declared.
“The Ukrainians made their choice 80 years ago. We saved Jews, and therefore we have among us Righteous Among the Nations. The people of Israel, you now also have a choice to make.”
In evoking Ukrainians who saved Jews during the Holocaust, Zelensky elided the role of Ukrainian nationalist militia in carrying out the Holocaust and the rehabilitation of some of these same groups in recent years.
Several days after the beginning of the war, Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk asserted that Israel had failed to live up to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s expectations.
However, that appeared to change as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took an increasingly central role in negotiations to end the conflict, with Korniychuk declaring that Bennett's efforts, which took him to Russia and Germany, were "more important than sales of weapons or munitions.”