Update: Israel says Vladimir Putin has apologized for his foreign minister's controversial remarks about Hitler, reports the BBC. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Putin apologized during a phone call for the comments made by Sergey Lavrov that Hitler had "Jewish blood," like Ukraine's leader. Bennett said he accepted the apology. For the record, the Russian readout of the call made no mention of any apology. Our original story from May 1 follows:
Russia's foreign minister is taking heat for comments about Ukraine's president that compared him to Adolf Hitler. On Sunday, Sergey Lavrov granted an interview to an Italian news channel, and he defended his country's invasion of Ukraine by standing behind one of Russia's eyebrow-raising justifications for it: that it had done so to "denazify" Ukraine. The explanation he used to condone Russia's actions is now drawing blowback from Israel, reports the Times of Israel. Confronted with the fact that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish himself, Lavrov replied, "So what if Zelensky is Jewish. The fact does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine. I believe that Hitler also had Jewish blood."
Lavrov then added: "Some of the worst antisemites are Jews." He then went on to claim that the US and Canada are taking part in helping to train "neo-Nazi subdivisions" among fighters in the Ukrainian army—he didn't name the publications he claimed had confirmed this—and that Zelensky should stop giving "criminal" orders to those forces, per Haaretz. The Times notes that historians have long refuted conspiracy theories claiming that Hitler's own Jewish ancestry drove his antisemitism. "Foreign Minister Lavrov's remarks are both an unforgivable and outrageous statement as well as a terrible historical error," Yair Lapid, Israel's foreign minister, tweeted Monday, per the BBC. "Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of antisemitism."
Israel's foreign ministry is demanding an apology. Dani Dayan, who heads up Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, also pushed back on Lavrov's remarks, calling them "false, delusional, and dangerous, and worthy of all condemnation," per the Times. That paper notes there was even more to Lavrov's beef with the West regarding the conflict, as he accused the US of sabotaging any attempts at peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. Lavrov seems to be taking some of all this personally: He pointed the finger at Western media, claiming they're warping what's really happening with the war, as well as presenting "distorted views of me." Lavrov's comments came less than a week after Israel commemorated one of their most serious occasions, Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Read more Sergey Lavrov stories.)