BISHKEK, Oct 13 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin cautioned Israel on Friday against laying siege to Gaza in the same way that Nazi Germany besieged Leningrad, saying a ground offensive there would lead to an “absolutely unacceptable” number of civilian casualties.
Putin said Israel had been subjected to “an attack unprecedented in its cruelty” by Hamas militants, but was responding with cruel methods of its own.
He said there had been calls even in the United States for a blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on a par with “the siege of Leningrad during World War Two”.
“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.
Thousands of civilians have been killed in the Ukraine war that Putin launched in February 2022, which has now been raging for nearly 20 months and has included the prolonged siege of Ukrainian cities such as Mariupol and Bakhmut.