Ukraine urged people not to forget the incident, which it claimed offered the moral justification for opposition to “Russian aggression” on Friday as it commemorated the 82nd anniversary of a mass massacre, primarily of Jews, in Nazi-occupied Kyiv.
After taking over the Ukrainian capital, which was then a part of the Soviet Union, during World War Two, Nazi soldiers massacred almost 34,000 Jewish men, women, and children on September 29 and 30, 1941, at Babyn Yar, a ravine outside of Kyiv.
Over the next two years, many more people were killed at Babyn Yar. Most were Jews but the victims also included Roma and non-Jewish Ukrainians, Poles and Russians.
“It is very important to always remember history, not to forget. Because ‘Never again!’ are not empty words,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said after leaving a candle at a monument of a Jewish menorah erected at the site to honour the victims.
He spoke with a small group of people gathered at the monument including relatives and descendants of the victims and rabbis from Ukrainian cities.
“All our days of commemoration have been made more emotional by the war. It has sharpened our feelings, opened up our wounds. We have become more sensitive to justice, to pain, to memory, to love,” said a serviceman called Yurii with the call sign “Seff” as he took part in an annual march to monument.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry urged the world to prevent such killings happening again and drew attention to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 19 months ago.
“The memory of Babyn Yar and the slogan ‘Never again’ are the moral basis of humanism and opposition to any forms of aggressive-chauvinistic ideologies, in particular, Russian aggression against Ukraine,” it said in a statement.
Zelenskiy is Ukraine’s first ethnically Jewish president, although he is not publicly religious. Most of his grandfather’s family was killed during World War Two.
Russia launched a full-scale invasion on Ukraine in February 2022, saying the goal of the “special military operation” was to de-nazify and demilitarise its neighbour. Kyiv and its Western allies have accused Russia of an unprovoked land grab.