Skip To Content
Fast Forward

Ukrainian ambassador tells American Jews that claims of ‘denazifying’ are ‘appalling’

In a webinar with American Jews, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S. Friday said she was appalled by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that he invaded Ukraine to “denazify” the country.

The assertion is particularly ridiculous because “antisemitism is a crime in Ukraine,” Ambassador Oksana Markarova told the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, an American group that advocates on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

She also noted that Ukraine is one of the few countries ever to elect a Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and that it recently marked the 80th anniversary of the massacre at Babi Yar, a mass grave for nearly 34,000 Jews near Kyiv.

“We are a country that lost so many brothers and sisters of Jewish nationality in so many horrific Holocaust events,” said Markarova, 45, Ukraine’s former finance minister who became ambassador a year ago. We swore on their grave “that never again will this happen here.”

There are about 43,000 Jews in Ukraine but about 200,000 Ukrainians are eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return and some estimates are higher.

Asked about Zelensky, who has referred to himself as Russia’s “No. 1 target,” Markarova said “he is safe and does not want to leave.”

“As much as we worry about the president and his family, our secret service is doing everything to guard the president. He is in Kyiv and plans to remain there.” But she also said, during a 45-minute presentation that included about 120 participants, that “nobody is safe until the fighting stops.”

Markarova said Russia is waging a full-fledged war in Ukraine and that there have been many casualties. “Day-to-day life is disrupted pretty much everywhere in Ukraine — not only in areas where they are shelling.”

Though Markarova painted Ukraine as friendly to Jews, the nation has a deep history of antisemitism dating back centuries. During and after World War I, more than 1,000 pogroms occurred in Ukraine and an estimated 500,000 Jews died during the Holocaust there.

But according to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll, Ukraine is among the least antisemitic countries in Eastern Europe: 11% of those surveyed expressed a negative view of Jews and 83% expressed a favorable view.

Get the Forward delivered to your inbox. Sign up here to receive our essential morning briefing of American Jewish news and conversation, the afternoon’s top headlines and best reads, and a weekly letter from our editor-in-chief.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.