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Russia scolds OSCE for equating Hitler and Stalin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian lawmakers threatened the OSCE with “harsh” consequences on Saturday after the European security body’s parliamentary arm condemned both Stalinism and fascism for starting World War Two.

Russia’s delegates stormed out of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s annual parliamentary meeting after members passed the resolution, drafted by a delegate from the host nation Lithuania, a former Soviet satellite.

“This is nothing but an attempt to re-write the history of World War Two,” Konstantin Kosachyov, who heads the foreign relations committee of Russia’s lower house of parliament, told Interfax news agency.

“The reaction of the parliament to this document will be immediate and it will be harsh.”

The resolution called for a day of remembrance for victims of both Stalinism and Nazism to be marked every August 23, the date in 1939 when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact dividing Eastern Europe between their spheres of influence.

Of the 213 delegates present, eight voted against the resolution and four abstained.

An OSCE spokesman noted that unlike its parliamentary branch, the Vienna-headquartered OSCE itself does not pass resolutions and takes decisions by consensus, giving each of its 56 member countries veto power.

Such parliamentary resolutions have little to no effect on OSCE policy, though Friday’s was enough to draw Moscow’s ire.

Since its brief war with neighboring Georgia last year, Russia has had a strained relationship with the OSCE, which led a post-war monitoring mission in the conflict zone.

The legacy of Josef Stalin often touches off emotional public debates in Russia, and in May, the Kremlin set up a commission to counter claims from other countries that Russia had not defeated fascism in Europe in the war.

Alexander Kozlovsky, the head of Moscow’s delegation to the OSCE, called the resolution an “insulting anti-Russian attack,” state-owned RT television reported. The head of the Russian Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, told Ekho Moskvy radio that the document was “disgusting” and “shameful.”

Millions of Russians, especially of the older generation, revere Stalin for fashioning the Soviet Union into a superpower and defeating Nazi Germany during the Great Patriotic War, as it is known to most Russians.

Last year, Stalin was voted the third greatest Russian in history in a national survey.

President Dmitry Medvedev has launched an official drive to fight versions of history that question Russia’s role in defeating fascism.

Russian histories of World War Two still give little attention to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which carved up Poland and the three Baltic States at the outbreak of war.

The Soviet Union joined the allied side in 1941 after it was attacked by Germany.

Kosachyov, a parliamentarian from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, offered his own history lesson to the Baltic states that supported the resolution. “A large portion of their populations fought alongside the SS with weapons in hand,” he said, Interfax reported.

Reporting by Simon Shuster; additional reporting by Anne Jolis in Brussels; Edited by Richard Meares