In new salvo, Russia slams Israeli support of Kiev 'neo-Nazi regime'
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a press conference in Moscow. -/Russian Foreign Ministry/dpa
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a press conference in Moscow. -/Russian Foreign Ministry/dpa

Russia doubled down on its war effort on Tuesday - though this time it focused on its war of words with Israel against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine - accusing Israel of supporting a "neo-Nazi regime in Kiev."

Russia began an invasion of Ukraine in February, arguing that it had to "de-Nazify" the country, a claim that was already widely refuted given the fact that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish.

On Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov upped the ante, telling an Italian broadcaster that Zelensky's heritage did not rule out anti-Semitic leanings in the country. "That does not mean anything at all. The wise Jewish people say that the most keen anti-Semites are usually Jews," he told Italian TV channel Rete4.

That prompted a diplomatic backlash from Israel, with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid urging the Russian leadership on Monday to "open a history book."

Russia's Foreign Ministry fired back on Tuesday, calling Lapid's criticism "anti-historical," adding that basing arguments on Zelensky's Jewish heritage "not only did not hold up, but were also duplicitous."

Furthermore, they said that Ukraine is not only tainted by a "crazy Russophobia and a fight against anything Russian," but also anti-Semitism and anti-Romani sentiments, according to a statement.

An Israeli spokesperson said on Tuesday that the country's Foreign Ministry had "stated its position" during a meeting with Russian Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov the day before, but that both sides had agreed "not to elaborate further." Israeli news agency ynet reported that Israeli officials assume there will be no apology.

Israel has close ties to both Russia and Ukraine. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke to the leaders of both countries multiple times early in the war.

A photo released by the Ukraine Presidency on Sunday 1 May 2022 shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arriving to receive Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi during her visit to Ukraine. -/Ukraine Presidency/dpa