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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.


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