Putin pledges to 'de-Nazify' Ukraine, which is led by a non-Nazi Jewish president

Volodymyr Zelensky
Volodymyr Zelensky Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin formally declared his intention to invade Ukraine early Thursday, and by all accounts he launched a full-scale attack across the country. After two separatist enclaves of Ukraine, which Putin had recognized as independent "republics" on Monday, asked for help, Putin said in a televised speech, he "decided to conduct a special military operation." The point of that operation, Putin added, is the "demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine."

Ukraine isn't led by Nazis. In fact, its far-right parties earned a combined 2 percent of the vote in 2019 parliamentary elections. It is, however, led by a Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky. For a brief while at the beginning of Zelensky's term, Ukraine also had a Jewish prime minister. It is possible for Jewish people to be Nazis, even though a core goal of Nazi Germany was the extermination of Jews, but Zelensky, a former comedic actor, is not one.

After invading Ukraine, Putin tried to wash his hands of the coming bloodshed. His plans "don't include occupation of Ukrainian territory, we are not going to impose anything on anyone by force," Putin claimed in his televised speech. "Russia cannot feel safe, develop, and exist with a constant threat emanating from the territory of modern Ukraine," he said. "All responsibility for bloodshed will be on the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine."

Putin also warned other countries not to interfere with his quick-strike takeover of a sovereign nation. Militarily, "modern Russia, even after the collapse of the USSR and the loss of a significant part of its nuclear potential, is today one of the most powerful nuclear powers," he said, adding later: "To anyone who would consider interfering from outside: If you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history."

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