Photo of Jewish Ukrainian With Machine Gun Goes Viral: 'Shalom Kyiv!'

An image of a Jewish man holding a machine gun has been widely shared on social media as a defiant riposte to the claim by Vladimir Putin that his forces were engaged in the "denazification" of Ukraine.

The striking picture shows the bearded man in an undisclosed location in a Ukrainian military uniform with the weapon slung downwards in his right hand. Behind his left shoulder flutters the Ukrainian flag.

"Shalom Kyiv!" tweeted the Ukraine Information Army, next to the image which as of Friday afternoon had been liked more than 28,000 times and retweeted more than 4,000 times.

Time journalist Simon Schuster also shared the image with the message, "de-Nazify that."

In an address to Russian citizens before he announced the invasion, Putin claimed on February 24, that the government in Kyiv had been seized by "extreme nationalists and neo-Nazis" and that he had sent in forces to ensure the "denazification" of Ukraine.

Along with many world leaders, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, has derided Putin's comments.

"How can I be a Nazi?" Zelensky said in a televised address before Putin launched the war. "Explain it to my grandfather, who went through the entire war in the infantry of the Soviet army, and died a colonel in an independent Ukraine."

Zelensky has said that three of his grandfather's brothers died in the Holocaust.

Jewish groups were angered after Russian missiles landed near the Babyn Yar memorial park in Kyiv, which commemorates the murder of Jews by the Nazis in World War II. A camera crew caught the moments when Zelensky was informed on Tuesday on the strike.

Babyn Yar, also known as Babi Yar, is one of Europe's largest World War II mass graves in Europe. According to the Nazis' records, 33,771 Jews were killed there over two days in September 1941.

Around 100,000 people, including Roma, non-Jewish Ukrainian civilians and Soviet prisoners of war, are believed to have been buried there.

The BBC reported that the missile attack, which was targeting a nearby TV tower, killed five civilians but that the most iconic memorials in the park were left unscathed.

A video clip shared by Radio Free Europe shows a woman in Kyiv recalling that her relatives had died in Babyn Yar and that she hid from Nazi bombs on June 22, 1941.

"On the 24th February 2022, Kyiv has again faced bombing and shelling," said the woman, lamenting how history was repeating itself, "Putin, get your army out of Ukraine. We want peace."

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Ukrainian soldier
This image, shared on Twitter, of a Jewish Ukrainian soldier has gone viral. Russian President Vladimir Putin said his forces would "denazify" Ukraine, a comment that has been widely derided. Twitter