The Kremlin has invited officials from Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum to examine purported mass graves after the fighting with Ukraine ends, maintaining its widely debunked stance that Kyiv is committing genocide against Russian-speakers in two separatist regions backed by Moscow.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, a day after a Russian strike on Kyiv’s main TV transmitter killed at least five people and damaged a memorial at the Babi Yar Holocaust massacre site, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called on Yad Vashem to send observers to occupied eastern Ukraine.
“We can talk with officials from [Luhansk People’s Republic] and [Donetsk People’s Republic], and I am sure that after this is all over, they will gladly invite Yad Vashem officials and show them mass graves,” state news agency Sputnik quoted Peskov as saying.
The Ukrainian capital’s iconic TV tower stands next to Babi Yar, where tens of thousands of Jews were killed by the Nazis and their local collaborators over two days in 1941.
Following Tuesday’s attack, Yad Vashem released a statement voicing its “vehement condemnation,” calling on the international community “to safeguard civilian lives as well as these historical sites because of their irreplaceable value for research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust.”
A menorah memorial at the Babyn (Babi) Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv on Wednesday.Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP
According to Sputnik, Peskov’s comments came in response to an earlier Yad Vashem statement in which the normally apolitical institution condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Yad Vashem said it condemned “the propagandist discourse accompanying the current hostilities,” which it said was “saturated with irresponsible statements and completely inaccurate comparisons with Nazi ideology and actions before and during the Holocaust.”
Russian troops invaded Ukraine last Thursday on a self-declared mission of “denazification,” amid unproved claims that the country was carrying out war crimes against its own citizens.
In an address to the Russian people, President Vladimir Putin declared that “the purpose of this operation is to protect people who, for eight years now, have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kyiv regime.”
Ukrainian Jews have rejected the charge, while Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of emulating Nazi Germany.
In a speech Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, called for Jews and allies to wake up to the threats posed by Russia’s invasion, warning that “Nazism is born in silence.”
“I am now addressing all the Jews of the world,” Zelenskyy said in a video uploaded to his Telegram channel. “Do you not see what is happening? It is very important that all of you together, millions of Jews around the world, do not remain silent.”