In a call with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Russian President Vladimir Putin apologized for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's assertion that Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins.
Bennett accepted Putin's apology for Lavrov's remarks and thanked him for clarifying the Russian president's attitude toward the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust, Bennett's office said in a statement.
The two leaders also stressed the importance of May 9 – the day of victory of Nazi Germany – to Israelis and Russians, as well as the memory of victims of war and the Holocaust.
Bennett mentioned the contribution of the Red Army to the victory in the Second World War. During the conversation, he brought up Zelenskyy's request to find a solution to the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where it is estimated that several hundred people are trapped. Putin said that Russia was still ready to provide safe passage for civilians to leave the plant and called on Kyiv to order Ukrainian fighters holed up in Azovstal to put down their weapons.
Putin also sent his congratulations to President Isaac Herzog to mark Israel's Independence Day.
- Manhunt Underway for Terrorists Who Killed Three Israelis, Wounded Four
- Russia's Antisemitic Attack on Israel Is Shocking and Deliberate
- Russia Cited Jewish Experts in Ukraine 'Nazi' Smear. Now They Respond
- Israeli President: 'Lavrov Is Spreading Antisemitic Lies. I Expect Him to Apologize'
"I extend my sincere wishes on the occasion of Israel's Independence Day," Putin wrote to Herzog.
"I believe that relations between Russia and Israel, based on the principles of friendship and mutual respect, will continue to develop for the benefit of our people and in order to strengthen peace and security in the Middle East.
"I wish you good health and great success, as well as joy and prosperity for all Israeli citizens," he added.
The spat began when Lavrov said Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Jewishness does not negate his country's purported Nazi elements, according to an interview released Sunday by Italian media.
“So what if Zelenskyy is Jewish?" Lavrov said. "The fact does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine. I believe that Hitler also had Jewish blood. It means absolutely nothing. The wise Jewish people said that the most ardent antisemites are usually Jews."
Many Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, condemned the statement, with the latter dubbing the comment "unforgivable and outrageous as well as a terrible historical error."
Russia's foreign ministry accused Israel on Tuesday of supporting neo-Nazis in Ukraine, calling Lapid's comments "anti-historical" and "explaining to a large extent why the current Israeli government supports the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv."
On Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry also said Israelis are fighting alongside the ultranationalist Azov Regiment in Ukraine,
In an interview with Haaretz Wednesday, Herzog said he was shocked by Russia's comments and expected the foreign minister to apologize.
“The truth is I read them several times,” he recounted. “At first, I couldn’t believe that they had been uttered by a Russian foreign minister. They made me angry and disgusted. During a week when we are remembering the Holocaust, of all weeks, the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov chooses to spread lies, terrible lies, which smell of antisemitism. I expect him to retract his words and apologize.”