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Putin apologizes to Israel for head envoy's Hitler comments

Putin apologizes to Israel for head envoy's Hitler comments
Russian President Vladimir Putin apologized to Israel on Thursday over remarks made by his head envoy comparing Adolf Hitler to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. File Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin/EPA-EFE

May 5 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin apologized Thursday for comments comparing Adolf Hitler to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that his foreign minister said earlier this week in defense of the Kremlin's war in Ukraine.

The apology was made to Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett via a telephone conversation in which they discussed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's remarks, a statement from the Israeli office said.

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"The Prime Minister accepted President Putin's apology for Lavrov's remarks and thanks him for clarifying his attitude towards the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust," it said.

However, a Russian readout of the call made no reference to the apology or that the world leaders discussed the incendiary remarks.

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The apology comes amid Russia's war in Ukraine that the Kremlin has described as an operation to deNazify the country -- a statement that has received much pushback from the democratic world due in part to the fact that Zelensky is Jewish.

Over the weekend, Lavrov defended Russia's war in an interview with an Italian news channel, stating that "it means absolutely nothing" that Zelensky is Jewish because "Hitler also had Jewish blood."

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"The wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews," he said.

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Israel's foreign minister, Yair Lapid, called the comments from his Russian counterpart "unforgivable and outrageous" as well as "a terrible historical error."

"Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust," he said. "The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of anti-Semitism."

The readout from Israel adds that Bennett requested that Putin examine various options for the evacuation from the Azovstal plant in the besieged city of Mariupol.

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The Russian readout states that the Kremlin "remains ready to ensure the safe exit of civilians" from the plant while Ukrainian forces there should lay down their arms.

It also said Putin and Bennett "stressed" the significance of Monday for both countries as Russia celebrates Victory Day, the day Moscow celebrates its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, on May 9.

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