In a warning to Israel on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that a ground operation in Gaza would result in a “absolutely unacceptable” amount of civilian casualties, much like how Nazi Germany encircled Leningrad.
According to Putin, Hamas militants had launched “an attack unprecedented in its cruelty” on Israel, to which Israel had in turn retaliated.
He claimed that calls for a blockade of the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas, on par with “the siege of Leningrad during World War Two” had come from within the United States.
“In my view it is unacceptable,” Putin told reporters at a summit in Kyrgyzstan. “More than 2 million people live there. Far from all of them support Hamas by the way, far from all. But all of them have to suffer, including women and children. Of course it’s hard for anyone to agree with this.”
His criticism of Israel was made all the more stinging by the reference to the 1941-44 siege of Leningrad and the implied comparison between Israel and Hitler’s Germany, with potential for causing deep offence in Israel.
Putin said, however, that Israel had the right to defend itself.
He was speaking after Israel’s military called for all civilians of Gaza City, more than 1 million people, to relocate south within 24 hours, as it massed tanks for an expected ground invasion in response to Saturday’s devastating Hamas attack.
Putin said a ground attack would lead to “serious consequences for all sides”.
“And most importantly, the civilian casualties will be absolutely unacceptable. Now the main thing is to stop the bloodshed,” he said.