Israel blasted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday after he compared Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Adolf Hitler, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett dubbing the statement "lies."
"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 said, adding that he regards the Russian foreign minister's statement "severely."
"The use of the Holocaust of the Jewish people as a political tool must be stopped immediately."
On Sunday, Lavrov said that the fact Zelenskyy is Jewish does not negate his country's Nazi elements, claiming that Nazi Germany's leader Adolf Hitler also "had Jewish blood."
According to an interview with Italian media, Lavrov said: “So what if Zelenskyy is Jewish? 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."
Earlier Monday, Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Lavrov's comments "unforgivable, outrageous and a historical mistake."
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He added Israel is expecting an apology and that the Russian ambassador will be summoned.
"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."
Speaking with Israel’s Kan News, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba lashed out at Moscow for claiming that the Ukrainians were responsible for crimes carried out by its own forces, asserting that “This is the perverted logic of the Russian elite. And even Minister Lavrov, who knows what diplomacy is, he cannot hide anymore the deeply-rooted antisemitism, the antisemitism that is deeply-rooted into Russian elites.
"And, more broadly, let’s admit the fact, Russians hate other nations. They believe in the supremacy of their own nation over others. This is why this regime be stopped in its aggressive plans and actions. This is why the Russian war machine must be defeated."
While most Ukrainian officials saved their opprobrium for Russia, Sergiy Kyslytsya, Kyiv’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations tweeted a harsh criticism of the Jewish world at large, complaining that there has been "yet no vocal rebuke from the majority of Jewish organizations.”
“Why,” he asked. "Is it more about keeping silence to stay on the 'safe side' or is it de facto complacency, apathy? Is history forgotten?”
In the interview Sunday, the Russian foreign minister also accused the U.S. and Canada of training "neo-Nazi subdivisions" that are now in the ranks of the Ukrainian army, referencing those holding out in Azovstal plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
Lavrov noted that Zelenskyy could promote peace between Russia and Ukraine if he stopped giving "criminal" instructions to his Nazi soldiers.
Also on Monday, Dani Dayan, head of Israel's Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem called Lavrov's comments "dangerous and worthy of every condemnation." He added that Lavrov turned "victims into criminals, on the basis of pushing a completely false claim that Hitler was of Jewish descent."
Dayan also railed against calling Ukrainians Nazis, saying that doing so "distorts the term and causes damage to the victims of Nazism."
Speaking to Army Radio on Monday, Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel blasted Lavrov's claim that Hitler was Jewish, a theory widely discredited by historians, as "delusions that are meant to justify the Russians' horrific acts in Ukraine."
Asked why the prime minister or foreign ministry haven't yet condemned Lavrov's comments, Hendel responded that "in diplomacy there's a different time for things."
Criticism was heard outside Israel as well, as a German government spokesperson said on Monday that Lavrov's comment on Hitler was "absurd" propaganda.
In the interview, Lavrov also said NATO and the EU have "resigned themselves to Washington's dominance," and that Washington has decided "that the world must now be monopolar."
The Kremlin says it launched a "special military operation" on February 24 to demilitarize and "denazify" Ukraine, claiming its aim is to disarm and defeat nationalists within the country. Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext for the invasion. Since the invasion began, both sides of the conflict have compared their opponents to Nazis and accused them of committing genocide.
Reuters and DPA contributed to this report.