Memorial in Babi Yar, Kiev, Ukraine
Memorial in Babi Yar, Kiev, Ukraine iStock

Irwin Cotler, Canada's first Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, is speaking out about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, specifically condemning the strike on the Babi Yar site.

“Putin has sought to justify his unlawful and brutal aggression against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people through false and slanderous calls for ‘denazification’ while also accusing the Ukrainians of genocide,” Irwin said in a statement on Twitter.

Irwin slammed Russia for targeting the site of Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv. In the massacre, the Nazis murdered nearly all the Jews in Kyiv – 33,771 people – over the course of two days. During the German occupation of Ukraine (1941–1943), nearly 100,000 victims were murdered and buried in Babyn Yar.

“He has now compounded these outrageous charges by targeting the site of Babi Yar which commemorates the mass murder of 33,771 Jews in Babi Yar on Yom Kippur on September 28th and 29th 1941 and where the global community came together to mark the 80th anniversary of this atrocity,” Cotler said.

“I said then that Babi Yar serves as a reminder of our individual and collective responsibilities to remember, to bear witness, to shatter walls of indifference, to prevent and act against antisemitism and mass atrocity – lest we be complicit by our silence.”

“Our responsibility is to protect the Ukrainian people targeted in these brutal attacks, preserve this historical site of memory, and ensure that there is no place for the distortion and weaponization of the Holocaust,” Cotler continued.

“We stand with the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia engaged in calling out their criminal leadership,” he added.

He also urged the global community to uphold its “commitment to the memory of the Holocaust, the UN Charter, international law, democracy and the forces of freedom.”