Zelenskyy Rejects Putin’s ‘Laughable’ Claims of Neo-Nazis in Ukrainian Government: ‘I Cannot Take This Seriously’ (Video)

“This is a laughable statement for me, but then a strike of fear resurfaces,” the Ukrainian president told CNN

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unsubstantiated claims that the Ukrainian government is full of neo-Nazis. Speaking with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Zelenskyy rejected Putin’s claims about neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian government as “similar to a joke.”

“Well there are rare occasions when I smile and when I laugh, and for me to hear it, it’s as if something similar to a joke,” Zelenskyy told Zakaria through an interpreter. “I cannot take this seriously. Upon hearing the statements at first, you just think to yourself that this person has been in a leadership position for so many years and this person is supposed to have a very clear understanding of what Ukrainian people are because of the Soviet legacy.”

Zelenskyy, who is himself Jewish, speculated that Putin might be so sheltered that he really believes the misinformation he’s been spreading. “I think that currently Putin is an information bubble,” he said. “I think this is information bunker. And it is so powerful, this bunker of information, that he really thinks that Ukrainians are neo-Nazis. So this is a laughable statement for me, but then a strike of fear resurfaces.”

Zelenskyy continued, adding that if Putin really believes what he’s saying, he fears for what the Russian president might do next. “If he is serious about this statement, he might be capable of very horrendous steps.”

The Ukrainian president said there are many questions about what else Putin might do. “If he thinks that this is his mission to conquer our territories and if he sees signs of neo-Nazism in our country, then many questions emerge about what else he is capable of doing for the sake of his ambitions and for the sake of his mission,” he said. “So this gives arise to a feeling which is not very pleasant, which is very frightening and very hazardous. That it can be an information bubble which will continue to exert pressure, and it will pressurize Putin to further escalation.”

Putin has tried to justify the invasion of Ukraine by claiming Russia is “denazifying” the country, which is not true. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a lengthy message last week to the Russian people, picking apart Putin’s lies – including the “denazification” line.

“I know that your government has told you that this is a war to denazify Ukraine,” Schwarzenegger said. “Denazify Ukraine? This is not true. Ukraine is a country with a Jewish president. A Jewish president, I might add, whose father’s three brothers were all murdered by the Nazis. You see, Ukraine did not start this war. Neither did nationalists or Nazis. Those in power in the Kremlin started this war. This is not the Russian People’s War.”

Schwarzenegger continued, speaking directly to Russian soldiers. “The Russian government has lied not only to its citizens but to its soldiers. Some of the soldiers were told they were going to fight Nazis. Some were told that the Ukrainian people would greet them like heroes. And some were told that they were simply going on exercises – they didn’t even know that they were going into war. And some were told that they were there to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine. None of this is true. The fact is that Russian soldiers have faced fierce resistance from the Ukrainians who want to protect their families and their country.”

Watch Zelenskyy’s CNN interview in the video above.