MOSCOW – Daily News with wires
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has slammed attempts to equate Soviet Union with Germany as the initiator of World War II, saying that anyone who lays equal blame on the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany is telling a "lie". Medvedev says nobody can question "who started the war, who killed people and who saved millions of lives - who, in the final analysis, saved Europe."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks during his interview with Vesti Nedeli, a weekend news show on the state-run Rossiya television. AP photo.
Russia's president defended Moscow's role in World War II before the 70th anniversary of its outbreak, saying in an interview broadcast Sunday that anyone who lays equal blame on the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany is telling a "cynical lie."
Dmitry Medvedev's remarks were the latest salvo in Russia's bitter dispute with its neighbors over the war and its aftermath. The Kremlin has launched a campaign for universal acceptance of its portrayal of the Soviet Union as Europe's liberator.
Medvedev suggested in the interview with state-run Rossiya television that nobody can question "who started the war, who killed people and who saved millions of lives - who, in the final analysis, saved Europe."
"You cannot label someone who defended himself an aggressor," Medvedev said. Tuesday marks 70 years since the Nazis invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, shortly after Josef Stalin's Soviet Union reached a nonaggression pact with Germany that included a secret protocol dividing eastern Europe into spheres of influence.
Weeks after the German invasion, the Soviet army entered Poland from the east. After claiming its part of Poland, the Soviet Union then annexed the Baltic states and parts of Finland and Romania.
Germany is widely considered the chief culprit in the war, but many Western historians believe Hitler was encouraged to invade by the treaty with Moscow, called the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. The Kremlin recently has mounted a defense against suggestions that the Soviet Union shares responsibility for the outbreak of the war, reported by The Associated Press. Russians contend that the Soviet leadership saw a deal with Nazi Germany as the only alternative after failing to reach a military agreement with Britain and France, and that the pact bought time to prepare for war.
Medvedev lashed out at the parliamentary assembly of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe over a July resolution equating the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, saying: "Excuse me, but this is a cynical lie."
In the broadcast interview, Medvedev accused Western nations of turning a blind eye to what he said is the practice of Ukraine and the Baltic ex-Soviet republics of treating "former Nazi disciples" as "national heroes."
He suggested there was greater agreement between Moscow and the West about the moral aspects of World War II during the Cold War than there is now. Russian leaders accuse Western countries of rewriting history and understating the staggering sacrifices of the Soviet Union, which lost an estimated 27 million people in the war. In May, Medvedev created a commission to fight what he said were growing efforts to hurt Russia by falsifying history.
Kremlin critics have accused Russia of doing the falsifying, saying its leadership glosses over the Soviet government's conduct at home and abroad. In recent months, Poland has expressed dismay over a program on state-run Russian television and a research paper posted on the Russian Defense Ministry's Web site that seemed to lay significant blame on Poland for the outbreak of WWII.
Putin to fight WWII revisionism on Poland visit
Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will fight attempts to rewrite the history of World War II during his trip to Poland for a major anniversary ceremony on Tuesday, a top advisor said.
Yury Ushakov on Sunday hinted that contentious issues linked to the war would be highlighted when the Russian premier visits Gdansk, Poland, for the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II.
But he also plans to "give an boost" to Russian-Polish relations, which have been strained by a range of historical disputes, Ushakov, Putin's advisor, told reporters. "The goals of the upcoming visit are, first, to counter attempts in the international context to revise the history of World War II, and second, to give an boost to Russian-Polish bilateral relations," Putin's advisor said.
"There is readiness for this among both the Russians and the Poles." Russia in recent months has stepped up its campaign against what it calls "falsifications" that challenge Soviet heroism in World War II, which cost the lives of tens of millions of Soviet citizens.
The main targets of Russia's criticism have been governments of ex-Soviet ruled states such as Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic countries which view Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union as an aggressor and occupier, not a liberator. Putin is due to give a speech in Gdansk which will be closely watched, along with other European leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, generally regarded as the start of World War II.