World News

Russia say EU ignores Nazism in Baltic states

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday the European Union was ignoring moves by the bloc’s members Estonia and Latvia to glorify Nazism.

Putin, speaking in the Kremlin to members of the European Jewish Congress, said he was shocked by an annual Waffen SS parade which took place in Latvia last March.

“Some facts which we come up against in several countries of Eastern Europe have provoked open astonishment and incomprehension,” Putin said on national television.

“The activities of the Latvian and Estonian authorities openly connive at the glorification of Nazis and their accomplices. But these facts remain unnoticed by the European Union,” Putin said.

In 2006, Latvian officials banned an annual march commemorating the Latvian Waffen SS Volunteer Legion’s fight against the Red Army, although far right groups marched anyway.

Russia’s relations with Estonia also sunk to a new low this year when Estonian authorities moved a Red Army monument, the latest in a long series of disputes between Moscow and the Baltic states over World War Two.

Soviet forces annexed Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania during the war, and locals in the Baltic states fought on both the Nazi German and Russian sides.

Russia says it liberated the countries from Nazi occupation in a victory that cost it 20 million lives. It sees its defeat of Germany as a defining moment in its history and is sensitive to accusations that it occupied Eastern European countries.

But many in the region associate the arrival of Red Army soldiers with the start of nearly five decades of Soviet rule, during which thousands of people were arrested and sent to camps, and their governments directed from Moscow.