Rabbi Moshe Azman is seen at the dedication of a symbolic synagogue at Babyn Yar, site of a World War II Nazi massacre of Jews, in May 2021. Photo: Reuters/Gleb Garanich
Ukraine’s chief rabbi on Monday issued a blistering attack against Russia’s ongoing claims that the purpose of its invasion is to “denazify” its southern neighbor.
In an extensive interview with the Voice of America’s Ukrainian-language service, Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman insisted that Ukraine was “a normal country where all nationalities are treated with respect.”
Russian propaganda has frequently charged that Ukraine’s democratic government is run by “neo-Nazis.” Azman accused Moscow of having “privatized” the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
“Now they decide that they can call anyone who disagrees with them ‘fascists,’” Azman said.
“Most people in the world understand this, and to those who do not, I say: ‘Look who Russia is with today,’” the rabbi continued. “Iran, which openly declares that its goal is the destruction of Israel, Syria, North Korea. And with Ukraine there is the whole free world. Who is the fascist here? It cannot be that the whole world are fascists, only Russia and Iran are not fascists.”
Azman painted a bleak picture of the political atmosphere in Russia under President Vladimir Putin.
“It is very scary that people did not learn from the experience of the 1930s, when millions of people were shot for denunciations, and some were happy, pointing fingers,” he argued. “Therefore, I do not see any future there.”
Azman echoed the Ukrainian government’s plea for Israeli military assistance in its confrontation with Russia.
“I understand that Israel itself is in a difficult situation, that Russia is constantly blackmailing Israel, because there are Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran on different sides. Therefore, I cannot condemn Israel for this,” he said. “But I explained that the situation has now changed – Iran, which is trying to develop nuclear weapons and threatens to destroy Israel, has started supplying Russia with drones, which they are testing there and will use against Israel. And in return, they receive technology, aircraft, and nuclear specialists from Russia. Therefore, I think Israel should support Ukraine even in its own interests.”
Azman also discussed the Jewish community’s efforts to bring humanitarian aid to Ukraine during the first year of the invasion.
“We brought aid from Israel — backpacks with first aid, everything needed for emergency care. We saw that in many places water pipes were destroyed, so we are bringing water purification systems. We bring medicines from Israel, we bring rehabilitation equipment for the wounded from the Baltic countries,” he said.