In address to Israeli lawmakers, Zelensky evokes the Holocaust, accuses Putin of plotting a 'final solution'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Israeli lawmakers.
(Image credit: Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an appeal to Israel on Sunday, asking the country to stop straddling the fence between Russia and Ukraine and pick a side.

"One can ask for a long time why we can't accept weapons from you or why Israel didn't impose sanctions against Russia, why you are not putting pressure on Russian business," Zelensky said during a virtual address to Israeli lawmakers. "It is your choice, dear brothers and sisters."

Israel is serving as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia, and since Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's surprise visit to Moscow on March 5, he has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin at least twice and Zelensky at least six times, The Associated Press reports.

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Zelensky, who is Jewish, made multiple references to the Holocaust during his address. Putin has claimed that his invasion is about ridding the Ukrainian government of neo-Nazis, but Zelensky told the lawmakers Russia is actually following the game plan of Nazi Germany, and it's imperative that they follow Western allies by imposing sanctions against Russia and giving arms to Ukraine.

"You remember it and will never forget it for sure," Zelensky said. "But you should hear what is coming from Moscow now. They are saying the same words now: 'Final solution.' But this time it's about us, about the Ukrainian question." During World War II, "Final Solution" was a term used by Nazi leaders in reference to the mass murder of Jews.

Zelensky connecting the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the Holocaust was not well received by Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial. In a statement that did not name Zelensky, Yad Vashem said, "Propagandist discourse accompanying the current hostilities is saturated with irresponsible statements and completely inaccurate comparisons with Nazi ideology and actions before and during the Holocaust. Yad Vashem condemns this trivialization and distortion of the historical facts of the Holocaust."

Previously, Yad Vashem criticized Putin for referencing Nazis in his justification of the invasion and spoke out against the Russian attack on the Babyn Yar memorial site. Over the course of two days in September 1941, Nazi killing squads murdered more than 33,000 Jews at Babyn Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of Kyiv.

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