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‘Even the SS troops didn’t consider it possible’ Putin says ‘local nationalists and anti-Semites’ killed 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine during WWII

Source: Meduza
Mikhail Klimentyev / Kremlin Press Service / Sputnik / EPA / Scanpix / LETA

At a Tuesday meeting of the Pobeda Organizing Committee, a Kremlin advisory body, Vladimir Putin said that during the Second World War, “local nationalists and anti-Semites” killed 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine. Putin’s comments on the history of the Holocaust were part of a conversation between the Russian leader and Alexander Shkolnik, the director of Moscow’s Victory Museum. Shortly afterwards, Putin gave an interview to the Russian propagandist Pavel Zarubin in which he said that “Western managers have put an ethnic Jew in charge” of modern Ukraine. Meduza has translated a transcript of Putin’s complete exchange with Shkolnik.

Putin: How many Jews were killed in Ukraine by the Nazis and collaborators that the Chief Rabbi of Russia just spoke about?

Shkolnik: I can’t give a precise answer, Mr. Putin.

Putin: I’ll tell you how many. I’ll tell you. It was 1.5 million people. Women, old people, children. One-and-a-half million people. If six million people were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust, then this is a quarter of them all. Twenty-five percent of the victims. Mr. Shkolnik, who had been doing this in Ukraine?

Shkolnik: Well, as a matter of fact, this was done by Ukrainians themselves, who joined —

Putin: Which Ukrainians?

Shkolnik: — who joined the units.

Putin: Which Ukrainians?

Shkolnik: What do you mean? In what sense?

Putin: In the literal sense.

(Shkolnik tries to respond)

Putin: There were Ukrainians who saved other people. And who was doing the killing?

Shkolnik: The Nazis.

Putin: Yes. But they weren’t just Nazis. They were the very same collaborators that the Chief Rabbi of Russia was just speaking about. It was Banderites and their ilk who gave the direct orders. Even the Germans — even the SS troops — didn’t consider it possible to take part in these mass repressions. They put practically everything in the hands of local nationalists and anti-Semites. And everything we’re doing now shouldn’t just have some abstract value. These are concrete things that have connections to the present day. So I ask you to take notice of this.

Later on Tuesday, Vladimir Putin spoke about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Jewish heritage in an interview. According to the Russian president, “Western managers” put an “ethnic Jew” in charge of the country in order to “cover up the anti-human nature” of modern Ukraine.

Earlier this summer, Putin said that, according to his own “Jewish friends from childhood,” Zelensky is “not a Jew but a disgrace to the Jewish people.”

This isn’t the first time the Russian authorities have made anti-Semitic statements in recent months. In January 2023, for example, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov likened U.S. aid to Ukraine to Adolf Hitler’s attempt to eradicate Europe’s Jewish population.

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