Moscow: Israeli 'Mercenaries' Fighting Alongside Ukrainian neo-Nazis

A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry reportedly said Israelis were 'practically shoulder to shoulder' with militants of the ultranationalist Azov Regiment in Ukraine

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Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova speaks in Moscow, last month.
Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova speaks in Moscow, last month.Credit: Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Israelis are fighting alongside the ultranationalist Azov Regiment in Ukraine, exacerbating tensions between Moscow and Jerusalem over Israel's support for Ukraine and after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wrongly argued Adolf Hitler had "Jewish blood."

Maria Zarakhova, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, told Russia's Sputnik that "Israeli mercenaries are practically shoulder to shoulder with Azov militants in Ukraine," according to a report by French news agency AFP.

The Azov militia, which fights against Russian forces, has ties to Western neo-Nazi groups.

Founded as a volunteer militia by members of the Patriot of Ukraine neo-Nazi group during the early days of the war in country’s east, in 2014, Azov helped recapture Mariupol from the separatists before being incorporated into the national guard as a regiment. Its troops have been accused of war crimes by the United Nations, and its paramilitary arm, the National Corps, has been linked to attacks on local Roma and members of the LGBTQ community.

These latest remarks follow a heated exchange between Russia and Israel over the past several days.

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."

Israeli Prime MInster Naftali Bennett said Monday that "such lies are intended to accuse the Jews themselves of the most horrific crimes in history committed against them, thus freeing the responsibility from the oppressors of Israel."

Bennett added that he regards the Russian foreign minister's statement "severely."

Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Lavrov's comments "unforgivable and outrageous as well as a terrible historical error. The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of antisemitism."

"To say Hitler was a Jew is like saying the Jews killed themselves," added Lapid. "The Nazis persecuted the Jews, only the Nazis were Nazis, only the Nazis undertook a systematic annihilation of the Jewish people."

Russia proceeded to double down on its remarks, accusing Israel of "support[ing] the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv."

Russia's remarks are the latest in a series of statements, implied threats, incidents and decisions in recent weeks that all look to point to a steadily growing chill in Moscow-Jerusalem relations.

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