Germany’s ambassador to Israel condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s contention that his invasion of Ukraine aims to “de-Nazify” the country, during an interview Wednesday with The Times of Israel.
“It’s disgusting, it’s abhorrent. It’s a distortion of history, it’s a distortion of the Holocaust. Putin calls everything democratic ‘Nazi.’ With all my soul, I apologize to Ukraine’s courageous Jewish president,” said Ambassador Susanne Wasum-Rainer.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish. Russian media outlets have repeatedly sought to portray Ukraine as aligned with Nazism and accused the country of perpetrating a “genocide” against ethnic Russians, without evidence to support such accusations.
“Its goal is to protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide… for the last eight years. And for this we will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” Putin said of the invasion during an address on state television last week.
Wasum-Rainer spoke with The Times of Israel as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met on Wednesday with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Scholz was originally set to visit Jordan and the West Bank as well, but those trips were scrapped due to the crisis in Ukraine.
“I would like for Israel to recognize and appreciate the enormous importance Germany is giving to the relationship with Israel at this moment in time. It just shows that even in the midst of this enormous crisis, this turning point in history, the relationship with Israel has a dramatic weight for us,” Wasum-Rainer said.
The two leaders would likely discuss the Ukraine crisis, she added.
Bennett has offered to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, with whom Jerusalem has relatively close ties. Asked whether Germany would look favorably on such a process, Wasum-Rainer deflected.
“Of course, we are in favor of anything that has a chance to stop the war in Ukraine,” she said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has intensified since it began. Russian forces have struck civilian centers in major Ukrainian cities and the refugees now number in the hundreds of thousands.
The international community has been relatively united in its response to the crisis, with the United States and the European Union slapping harsh sanctions on Russian financial transactions and the Russian Central Bank. Other democratic nations have also imposed tough sanctions.
Germany and several other countries have announced large hikes in defense spending, after years in which Berlin spent less than the 2 percent of GDP per year pledged by all NATO members. Historically neutral states such as Switzerland and Sweden have also joined in some sanctions against Russian officials and institutions.
“I don’t know how this crisis will develop. But this is a crisis that has strengthened Europe, the European Union and NATO over the past two or three days,” said Wasum-Rainer.