One day after the mayor of Mariupol said Russia’s slaying of residents in his city is twice as bad as World War II Nazis, the Russian foreign minister compared Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to Adolf Hitler.
It’s another chapter in the war of words as the field and aerial war between Russia and Ukraine gets ready to enter its 11th week.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday likened Zelensky, who is Jewish, to Hitler.
“The fact that Zelensky is Jewish does not negate the Nazi elements in Ukraine,” Lavrov said during an interview with Zona Bianca, which is an Italian news channel. “I believe that Hitler also had Jewish blood.”
There are conflicting reports on whether Hitler had a Jewish heritage, but most outlets point to his paternal grandfather who was Jewish. Hans Frank, who was Hitler’s personal lawyer and a member of the Nazi Party, wrote in his memoir that Hitler had Jewish blood.
Russia has vowed to “denazify” Ukraine during this current war. Russia mounted troops along the Ukrainian border and ships in the Black Sea during most of February, and then attacked Ukraine on February 24. In the following 10-plus weeks, the Russians have slaughtered civilians, destroyed cities, forced deportations to Russia and sought to re-educate its occupied territories.
Zelensky and a few world leaders have called the Russian invasion and destruction “genocide.” On Saturday, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko wrote on his Telegram account that Russia is committing “the worst genocides of civilians in modern history.”
Boychenko said there have been at least 20,000 civilian deaths in Mariupol since this war started, claiming it’s more than double the civilian murders by German Nazis during two years of occupation in World War II.
“In two years, the Nazis killed 10,000 civilians in Mariupol. And the Russian occupiers in two months – more than 20 thousand Mariupol. More than 40,000 people were forcibly deported,” Boychenko stated. “This is one of the worst genocides of civilians in modern history. The Russian army is purposefully and ruthlessly destroying our city and its inhabitants.”
Boychenko said the Russians “have already illegally deported as many Mariupol residents as Hitler’s troops during the years of occupation.”
“Racism is the fascism of the 21st century,” Boychenko wrote. “No doubts or illusions. Mankind has paid a high price for the victory over fascism in the last century. If we do not unite today and do not stop this evil, the price this time may be much higher.”
There has not been an accurate number of civilians killed in Mariupol since the war began. The city has been devastated, and most recently civilians have been bunkered at the Azovstal Steel Plant complex. There have reportedly been cease fires to allow human corridors for evacuation of residents, but there have also been conflicting reports of Russian troops thwarting evacuation attempts.
Zelensky said 100 people were able to evacuate on Sunday, but close to 1,000 still remain.
Mariupol is also the site where the drama theater sheltering nearly 1,200 people—mostly women and children—was bombed.
Russia continued attacks on Sunday by shelling the Donetsk and Kharkiv Oblasts and more artillery fired in Azovstal.