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Putin, Zelensky mark the Holocaust with statements
Published on: Saturday, January 28, 2023
By: AFP
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Putin, Zelensky mark the Holocaust with statements
Zelensky who is of Jewish descent did not refer directly to Russia’s invasion in his address.
KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky marked Holocaust Remembrance Day Friday by urging the world to unite against “indifference” and “hatred,” nearly one year into Russia’s invasion of his country.

“Today, as always, Ukraine honours the memory of millions of victims of the Holocaust. “We know and remember that indifference kills along with hatred,” Zelensky said in a video statement.

Zelensky, who is of Jewish descent and from the pre-dominantly Russian-speaking south of the country, did not refer directly to Russia’s invasion in his address.

Moscow has routinely accused Ukraine of harbouring neo-Nazis and justified its invasion saying the country needed to be “de-Nazified”.

It also employed World War II-era terminology to accuse Ukraine of carrying out a “genocide” of Russian speakers in the eastern Donbas region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated a claim that neo-Nazis were committing crimes in Ukraine—an allegation Moscow has used to justify its military intervention—as the world marked Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Forgetting the lessons of history leads to the repetition of terrible tragedies,” Putin said.

“This is evidenced by the crimes against civilians, ethnic cleansing and punitive actions organised by neo-Nazis in Ukraine. It is against that evil that our soldiers are bravely fighting,” he said in a statement.

Supporters of Putin’s military operation allege Ukraine’s treatment of Russian speakers in the country is comparable with the actions of Nazi Germany.

One reason Putin gave for launching a “special military operation” in Ukraine was to “de-Nazify” it.

The Ukrainian government and the country’s Jewish community have contested the claims.

The Soviet Union’s victory over Hitler’s army—long a symbol of patriotic pride for Russians—has taken centre stage since the beginning of the military intervention.

Putin said that “attempts to revise the contributions of our country to the Great Victory (against Hitler) actually equates to justifying the crimes of Nazism and opens the way for the revival of its deadly ideology.”

Friday is the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp built by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland—a date that has become Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Auschwitz museum did not invite Russian representatives to the ceremony marking 78 years since the Soviet Red Army liberated the Nazi camp because of the offensive in Ukraine.

“Russia will need an extremely long time and very deep self-examination after this conflict in order to return to gatherings of the civilised world,” Piotr Sawicki, a spokesman for the museum at the site of the former camp, told AFP. A blistering wave of Russian strikes targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure killed 11 people on Thursday, a day after Germany and the United States pledged heavy tanks for Kyiv.

Neither France nor its allies are fighting a war against Russia, the French foreign ministry said, following a Western decision to send heavy tanks to Ukraine to repel the Russian invasion.

“We are not at war with Russia and none of our partners are,” ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said.

“The delivery of military equipment... does not constitute co-belligerence.”

The Kremlin has said Moscow perceives the tank deliveries “as direct involvement in the conflict”.

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