Putin calls Zelenksy a 'disgrace' to Jewish people ahead of Olena Zelenska's visit to Israel

Russian president says his 'Jewish friends' feel the same way during a speech ahead of Zelensky's wife planned visit to Israel; Ukrainian ambassador demands government to condemn the statement to avoid a diplomatic incident

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed on Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is not Jewish and said that his friends believe he’s a "disgrace" to the Jewish people.
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Putin’s remark was made at an economic forum held in St. Petersburg, in which he said that, "I have many Jewish friends. They say Zelensky is not a Jew, he is a disgrace to the Jewish people,"
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ולדימיר פוטין  וולודימיר זלנסקי
ולדימיר פוטין  וולודימיר זלנסקי
Volodymyr Zelensky, Valdimir Putin
(Photo: Getty Images/Reuters/Ramil Sitdikov/ RIA Novosti)
In response to Putin's comments, Ukraine's Ambassador to Israel, Yevgeny Kornichuk, told Ynet that, “The comment was made to provoke and is a sad attempt at propaganda.”
“We need to take into account that Putin is attempting to undermine relations between Israel and Ukraine ahead of the visit of President Zelensky's wife to Israel, intentionally making these statements prior to Saturday, which is a holy day for Jews,” he said.
“We expect the Israeli government to strongly condemn Putin's remarks, as failure to do so may lead to the postponement or cancellation of the visit of President Zelensky's wife to Israel,” Kornichuk added. Zelensky’s wife, Olena Zelenska, is scheduled to arrive in Israel next week.
Kornichuk further stated that, "Zelensky takes Putin's words personally. Putin's remarks are antisemitic and hurtful to the Jewish people. I believe that Israel should be proud of Ukraine's president, who is of Jewish descent and wholeheartedly defends his homeland.”
“When he criticizes Zelensky, he also criticizes the Jewish people. We belong to the same side in this conflict,” he added.
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 יבגן קורניצ'וק
 יבגן קורניצ'וק
Ukraine's Ambassador to Israel Yevgeny Kornichuk
(Photo: Ukrainian Embassy in Israel)
During his speech in St. Petersburg, Putin also added, "Today, neo-Nazis are placed on a pedestal belonging to Ukrainian heroes, who continued Adolf Hitler’s work. Six million Jews were annihilated in the Holocaust, and one and a half million of them were killed in Ukraine.”
Zelensky himself, who previously mentioned that some of his grandfather's brothers were killed in the Holocaust, strongly rejected the Russian accusations that he supports neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
Similar statements against Zelensky were made in the past by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who claimed that Zelensky's Jewishness doesn’t deny the fact that neo-Nazi factions are present in Ukraine.
Lavrov's statement in 2022 claimed that he believed that Hitler, like Zelensky, had Jewish blood. Then-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid later responded to Lavrov’s words, saying that "This is an unforgivable and outrageous statement and a terrible historic mistake and we expect an apology,"
Another statement by Lavrov occurred in January when he said that the U.S. had formed a coalition with the EU to solve the "Russian question" in the same manner Hitler attempted to deal with the “Jewish question.”
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