Ukraine's Zelenskyy Compares Russia to Nazi Germany: 'Path of Evil'

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has compared Russia to Nazi Germany and invoked World War II as his country resists the invasion by Moscow's forces.

Zelenskyy denounced Russia's actions in a Twitter post on Thursday, hours after President Vladimir Putin ordered a "special military operation" in Ukraine.

"Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in [World War II] years," Zelenskyy wrote. "As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history."

The Ukrainian president said Russia had "embarked on a path of evil, but [Ukraine] is defending itself & won't give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks."

Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, on the orders of Adolf Hitler. The modern state of Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union at that time and Ukraine was occupied by German forces.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba struck a similar tone on Thursday as he reiterated that his country had cut off relations with Russia.

"Ukraine has severed diplomatic relations with Russia," Kuleba said. "I call on all our partners to do the same. By this concrete step you will demonstrate that you stand by Ukraine and categorically reject the most blatant act of aggression in Europe since WWII."

Zelenskyy had announced the decision to break off relations in a tweet earlier on Thursday and called for people to "go out and protest against the war with Ukraine."

Josep Borrell, the European Union high representative for foreign affairs, also invoked World War II in a statement issued on Thursday that condemned Russia's actions in Ukraine.

"These are among the darkest hours for Europe since World War II," Borrell said. "A major nuclear power has attacked a neighboring country and is threatening reprisals on any other state that may come to its rescue.

"This is not only the greatest violation of international law, it is a violation of the basic principles of human co-existence. It is costing many lives with unknown consequences ahead of us."

In an interview on Monday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had warned that Russia was preparing for "the biggest war in Europe since 1945" and urged people to understand "the sheer cost in human life that could entail."

Russian President Vladimir Putin also cited Nazism in his remarks announcing the attack on Ukraine, saying Russia "will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine."

Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, responded with apparent incredulity in comments delivered in Russian and intended for the Russian public.

"The Ukraine on your news and Ukraine in real life are two completely different countries—and the main difference between them is: Ours is real. You are told we are Nazis. But could a people who lost more than 8 million lives in the battle against Nazism support Nazism?" Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy paused before continuing: "How can I be a Nazi? 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."

Update 2/24/22 8:55 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include more information.

Zelenskyy Attends the Munich Security Conference
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, at the 2022 Munich Security Conference on February 19 in Germany. Zelenskyy has compared Russia to Nazi Germany. Matt Dunham - Pool/Getty Images