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Russia criticized after Ukraine says Kyiv airstrike hits near Holocaust memorial site

For many, whether deliberate or not, the strike exposed the absurdity of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that he launched the war to “denazify” Ukraine.
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Moscow has drawn fresh international condemnation after Ukraine said one of the Russian airstrikes hit near a historical memorial site where Nazis massacred tens of thousands of Jews during World War II.

Jewish groups around the world condemned the bombing, which Ukraine said hit the land beside Babi Yar, a Kyiv ravine where the Nazis killed an estimated 33,000 Jews in 1941.

There was no evidence the site, which is thought to be one of the largest mass graves in Europe and is now a Holocaust memorial, was deliberately targeted.

The Russian defense ministry said Tuesday it bombed the Kyiv television tower, a 1,200-foot-high steel structure. It said no residential buildings were damaged, and Ukraine said five people were killed.

The Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv, pictured Wednesday, is the site of World War II's biggest slaughter of Kyiv Jews and a place of memorial and pilgrimage. Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP via Getty Images

The tower is located next to Babi Yar and officials said the bomb hit the territory where the atrocities were committed. Earlier, shelling hit the town of Uman, a significant pilgrimage site for Hasidic Jews.

For many, whether deliberate or not, these strikes exposed the absurdity of Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that he launched the war to "denazify" Ukraine.

"Putin seeks to distort and manipulate the Holocaust to justify an illegal invasion of a sovereign democratic country," the Holocaust Memorial Center said in a statement, calling the conflict "utterly abhorrent." The statement added, "It is symbolic that he starts attacking Kyiv by bombing the site of the Babyn Yar, the biggest Nazi massacre.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish and whose grandparents fought the Nazis, appealed Wednesday to "all the Jews of the world: Don’t you see what is happening?"

He said it was "important that you, millions of Jews, do not remain silent right now, because Nazism is born in silence. So shout about killing civilians, shout about killing Ukrainians."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the strike "evil and barbaric."

Yad Vashem, Israel's holocaust memorial, expressed in a statement its "vehement condemnation" of the incident. The United States Holocaust Museum said it was "outraged at the damage" inflicted on the memorial, which "was the site of one of the largest mass shootings during the Holocaust. It is sacred ground."

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned the bombing and called to "preserve and respect the sanctity of the site."

Men move large metal jacks Wednesday into place near the TV tower and an adjacent park where the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center is located.
A group of volunteers moved large pieces of metal into place Wednesday near Kyiv's television tower and an adjacent park where the Holocaust Memorial Center is located.Marc Smith / NBC News

Ukrainian officials and the State Emergency Service said on Telegram that five people were killed on the strike against the TV tower complex.

Video and images posted on social media near the tower showed smoke rising and an explosion from a building nearby.

NBC News visited the site Wednesday and the large memorial in the park itself appeared undamaged. A group of men were placing large metal barriers to form a perimeter blocking off traffic around the TV tower and the adjacent park.

The park was quiet, but nearby roadways remained busy — mostly with civilian cars even as the threat of more Russian attacks lingered.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said a preliminary report indicated a building next to the TV tower was damaged by two missiles.

“The transformer substation, which supplies electricity to the TV tower, as well as the hardware on the TV tower itself are damaged,” he wrote on Telegram.

Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said the damage potentially disrupted the tower’s signal, Reuters reported. NBC News could not immediately confirm the extent of the damage or the reported deaths.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians and rejected any accusations of war crimes.

Kyiv’s TV tower, built in 1973, is one of the tallest freestanding lattice towers in the world.