Russian forces shelled a Holocaust memorial in Kharkiv, damaging a menorah erected at the site, Ukrainian officials and a local Jewish organization said on Saturday, as the war entered its second month.
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Sharing a photo of the mangled structure, the United Jewish Community of Ukraine stated that “as a result of artillery shelling by the Russian Federation Armed Forces, the Menorah monument at the entrance to the Drobitsky Yar memorial complex was damaged.”
Yad Vashem released a statement saying it "deplores the continued devastation of Ukrainian cities and the loss of lives of innocent civilians, as well as the damage to historic memorial sites from the Shoah."
Up to 20,000 people are believed to have been murdered by the Nazis at the Drobitsky Yar ravine on the eastern outskirts of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which has been relentlessly shelled since the beginning of the Russian invasion late last month.
“This is what this place looks like these days after the arrival of the Russian fascist army,” Gennedy Korban, a Jewish businessman and former politician from Dnipro, posted on Facebook, asking “if the State of Israel will react to the act of vandalism and defamation of the memorial.”
While Kharkiv has held out, multiple Jewish sites there have been destroyed or damaged by artillery and missile strikes, including the synagogue, Hillel House, Or Avner day school and a yeshiva dorm. One Jewish community member was killed in an airstrike while serving in Ukraine’s territorial defense forces, and a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor is said to have died when a Russian bomb hit his apartment building.
Drobitsky Yar is not located near any military targets and is “some distance from other buildings, so I suppose they can’t attack this memorial accidentally, only if they want to destroy it,” Anton Drobovych, the director of Ukraine’s Institute for National Memory, told Haaretz on Saturday.
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“Thank god they didn't destroy it totally” but it’s still “horrible” he said, recalling a recent missile strike on a television transmitter tower in Kyiv adjacent to the Babi Yar memorial.
According to Ukrainian media, a Second World War memorial in Kharkiv was also damaged by Russian fire in recent days.
In a Twitter post, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry claimed that the strike on Drobitsky Yar was evidence that “the Nazis have returned. Exactly 80 years later,” echoing President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s rhetoric after the Babi Yar Strike, when he asked “what is the point of saying 'never again' for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar?”
While critical of Russian claims that the Kremlin is working to “Denazify” Ukraine, Israeli leaders have also called out Kyiv for repeatedly calling the Russian invasion a genocide and comparing it to the Holocaust.
During a remote speech to the Knesset on Sunday, Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, said that Moscow was using the “language of the final solution,” prompting a harsh rejoinder from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who declared that “it is forbidden to compare anything to the Holocaust.”
“Since the war started, hundreds of historical Jewish places have been damaged all over the country and this is one of the obvious examples of that, so this is nothing new,” Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Kornichuk told Haaretz, without providing evidence for such extensive damage to Jewish sites.
“So the ones coming to Ukraine, to denazify Ukraine, are actually the Nazis themselves.”