Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has claimed that Jews caused the world to "bow" to them due to the Holocaust.
The authoritarian leader made the remarks in a speech on the occasion of a memorial service for Soviet soldiers who died fighting Nazi Germany.
"Jews were able to make the world remember [the Holocaust], and the whole world bows to them, being afraid of saying one wrong word to them," said Lukashenko. "On our part, we, being tolerant and kind, did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings and let the things down to the point when they have started to hurt us," he added, according to The Jerusalem Post.
He said there must be more acknowledgment of the role Belarussians had in fighting the Nazis alongside Soviet forces, with the Belarussian president stressing that more work was needed to ensure that people remember Belarus's part in World War II. He maintained that investigations had already begun regarding alleged Nazi crimes on Belarusian soil during the period, which he likened to a "Belarusian Holocaust."
On the same day Lukashenko made the comments, President Reuven Rivlin extended Independence Day greetings to the Belarusian leader, pointing to the relations between Jews and Belarus, reported the Post.
"Many representatives of the Jewish people have lived in Belarus for centuries, immigrated to the State of Israel and made valuable contributions to the education and development of the state."
Rivlin’s office said in response to social media criticism that the letter was sent in accordance with Foreign Ministry protocol for the national day of any country that Israel has diplomatic ties with.
Lukashenko is a controversial figure who has made previous antisemitic remarks.
Many people no longer consider him Belarus's legitimate president, after he initiated a harsh crackdown on his presidential election opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaya - forcing her into exile - and her supporters, following a supposedly large winning margin in the August 9, 2020 election, which is hotly disputed.