In a news release on Monday, the U.S. State Department slammed the Russian government for continuing to compare Ukrainian leaders to Nazis and evoking the Holocaust in its war against Ukraine.

The release cited numerous examples of the Russian government and propaganda apparatus justifying its aggression towards Ukraine by invoking World War II imagery.

Russia has long claimed that one of its goals in Ukraine was “de-Nazification” with Russian President Vladimir Putin calling the Ukrainian leaders a “gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis,” despite being led by the Jewish President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Putin and his disinformation and propaganda apparatus exploit the historical memory of the Soviet fight against Nazi Germany to fabricate a pretext for their unprovoked brutal war against Ukraine. To serve its predatory ends, the Kremlin is exploiting the suffering and sacrifice of all those who lived through World War II and survived the Holocaust,” said the letter. “In the process, the Kremlin is detracting from critically important global efforts to combat anti-Semitism and is instead propagating one of anti-Semitism’s most insidious forms: Holocaust distortion.”

When Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was asked by an Italian journalist how a Jewish president can be a Nazi, he repeated the conspiracy theory that Adolf Hitler also “had Jewish blood,” adding that Jews are sometimes the worst anti-Semites. The statements drew harsh criticism from Israeli politicians, but the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs doubled down on the claims, accusing Israel of making “anti-historical statements” and supporting a neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine.

The letter cited a June 5 revelation by the Security Service of Ukraine, which published a report from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) calling for more propaganda to support the “Special Military Operation” and recommending a “massive injection” of allegations that Ukrainian Nationalists were responsible for the killing of children in the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The FSB also called for a creation of a network of propagandists and the creation of staged videos of Russian and Ukrainian World War II veterans calling on Russia to “stop fascism in Ukraine.”

Russia’s use of Holocaust imagery and equating Ukraine to Nazis has been denounced by more than 140 international historians, who called the tactic “factually wrong, morally repugnant and deeply offensive,” adding that comparisons were deeply offensive to the victims of Nazism and those who fought against it.

Both Israel’s Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., have condemned the comparisons.


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