Putin apologizes to Israel following Lavrov’s Hitler remarks

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Russian President Vladimir Putin apologized to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Thursday, for incendiary comments made by a top Kremlin official earlier this week, Jerusalem said. 

A direct transcription of the call was not released, but a statement by the Israeli prime minister’s office said Bennett “accepted President Putin’s apology for Lavrov’s remarks and thanked him for clarifying his attitude towards the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust.”

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FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during their meeting, in Sochi, on Oct. 22 2021.

FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during their meeting, in Sochi, on Oct. 22 2021.
(YEVGENY BIYATOV/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

A Russian readout of the phone call did not mention an apology but said both countries “carefully preserve the historical truth about the events of those years and honor the memory of all the fallen, including victims of the Holocaust.”

“The President of Russia recalled that of the 6 million Jews tortured in ghettos and concentration camps, killed by the Nazis during punitive operations, 40% were citizens of the USSR, and asked to convey wishes of health and well-being to the veterans living in Israel,” according to a translation of the readout from the Kremlin.

The apology comes just days after a spat between Moscow and Jerusalem erupted when Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended claims made by Putin who has attempted to justify his illegal invasion into Ukraine.

Putin has repeatedly claimed that his “special military operation” into Ukraine is an attempt to “denazify” the country – alleging without proof that certain groups in Ukraine have been oppressed by Kyiv.

The international community and Ukraine have rejected these claims as a guise as Putin looks to gain territory in eastern Ukraine, pointing to the fact that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish and was democratically elected. 

“For some time we have heard from the Jewish people that the biggest antisemites were Jewish,” Lavrov claimed in an interview with an Italian news outlet. 

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, attends a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem Sunday, April 10, 2022.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, attends a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem Sunday, April 10, 2022.
(AP)

“When they say ‘How can Nazification exist if we’re Jewish?’ In my opinion, Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean absolutely anything,” he added. 

Lavrov’s comments drew swift ire from Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid who called the comments “unforgivable” and a “terrible historical error” that minimized the atrocities committed during the Holocaust.

Western news outlets have since said there is little evidence to support Lavrov’s claims. 

“Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust,” the Israeli foreign minister said Monday. “The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of antisemitism.”

But the spat continued when the Kremlin shot back Tuesday and accused the Israeli foreign minister of “contradict[ing] history” and accused Israel of supporting “the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv.”

In this photo released by the Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pauses during his and Brazilian Foreign Minister Carlos Franca's joint news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. 

In this photo released by the Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pauses during his and Brazilian Foreign Minister Carlos Franca’s joint news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. 
(Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

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Bennett reportedly also called on Putin Thursday to allow humanitarian corridors to be recognized and to evacuate the roughly 200 civilians and soldiers trapped inside the Mariupol Azovstal steel plant. 

Putin reportedly “promised” to evacuate the civilians. 



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