Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of severe antisemitism in an interview with the BBC. Zelensky was asked about comments made by Putin last week, claiming his "Jewish friends," told him that the Ukrainian president was not really Jewish and was a disgrace to the Jewish people.
Before responding to a question posed by the interviewer, Zelensky took a deep breath. "It's like he doesn't fully understand his words. Apologies, but it's like he is the second king of antisemitism after Hitler. This is a president speaking. A civilized world cannot speak that way. But it was important for me to hear the reaction of the world and I am grateful for the support," Zelensky said adding Israel did not condemn the Russian president's remarks.
Putin made his comments in St. Petersburg where he justified his invasion of Ukraine by claiming the regime in Kyiv was a neo-Nazi. Speaking in the Kremlin, the president said he could not understand how a person like Zelensky who "has Jewish blood flowing through his veins," can support neo-Nazi elements, although he never provided any evidence to support his claims.
Members of Zelensky's family perished in the Holocaust including his grandfather. Ukrian's Ambassador to Israel Yevgeny Kornichuk said the comments were intended as provocation.
"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. The government led by Benjamin Netanyahu has been far less willing to express criticism of the Russian leader than its predecessor.
In his interview with the British broadcaster, Zelensky gave his sincere read of counter attack his army had launched against the invading Russians, earlier this month. He admitted the forces were proceeding " slower than we had expected" because of the extensive fortifications put in place by the Red Army in the eastern parts of his country, including mining fields.
"Whatever some might want, including attempts to pressure us, with all due respect, we will advance on the battlefield the way we deem best," Zelensky added.
The Ukrainian counter-offensive is key to the progression of the war and was preceded by a substantial supply of weaponry from the West. Further arming of Kyiv by the U.S. and its European allies in the future would depend on the Ukrainian victories on the battlefield. Zelensky's aim is to begin negotiations with Russia when little or no Ukrainian territory is in Russian hands and can be used as leverage.
But Ukraine's economy has suffered greatly and is also in need of rehabilitation. In a conference in Britain, the EU said it would give economic aid in the sum of 50 billion euro by 2027 and the U.S. promised 1.3 billion. Britain revealed it would give Ukraine three billion pounds over three years.