Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded on Wednesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who last week lashed out at the Ukrainian President and claimed that "Zelenskyy is not even Jewish."
In an interview with the BBC, Zelenskyy, who lost many relatives in the Holocaust, including his grandfather, was asked for his reaction to Putin’s comments.
"It's like he doesn't fully understand his words. Apologies, but it's like he is the second king of antisemitism after Hitler,” replied Zelenskyy.
"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," he added.
Putin, during a conference last week, was asked why he continues to call Zelenskyy a "Nazi".
"I have many Jewish friends since childhood. They say Zelenskyy is not a Jew – he is a disgrace to the Jewish people," the Russian President responded.
This is not the first time that Russian leaders have caused an uproar in relation to Zelenskyy being Jewish, as Moscow has repeatedly sought to frame its invasion of Ukraine as an effort to “denazify” the country.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov came under fire last May when he said that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had Jewish blood.
In an interview with an Italian news channel, Lavrov referred to the fact that Zelenskyy is Jewish and said, “In my opinion, Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean absolutely anything. For some time we have heard from the Jewish people that the biggest antisemites were Jewish.”
Zelenskyy said in response that Lavrov’s comments show that Moscow "has forgotten all the lessons of World War II or perhaps never learned them."
In January of this year, Lavrov again made headlines as he compared the United States’ and the West's approach to Russia with the Nazis’ effort to eradicate the Jewish people during the Holocaust.
“They are waging war against our country with the same task: the ‘final solution’ of the Russian question,” Lavrov said, adding, “Just as Hitler wanted a ‘final solution’ to the Jewish question, now, if you read Western politicians … they clearly say Russia must suffer a strategic defeat.”
Those comments were criticized by the White House, with national security spokesman John Kirby saying, “Our first reaction is how dare he compare anything to the Holocaust, anything. Let alone a war that they started. It’s almost so absurd that it’s not worth responding to, other than the truly offensive manner in which he tried to cast us in terms of Hitler and the Holocaust.”
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, also condemned Lavrov’s remarks.