Russia threatens to bar Europeans who deny Red Army 'liberated' them
Eastern Europeans who believe their countries were occupied by the Soviet Union after the Second World War could soon be barred from Russia under new proposals given official weight by the Kremlin.
By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow
Published: 4:29PM BST 19 May 2009
Those found to contravene the new law, which Russia insists is little different from Germany's Holocaust-denial legislation, face up to five years in prison. Photo: AP
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, created a commission of 28 legislators and senior intelligence officers which will identify foreign "revisionists" who "disparage the international prestige of the Russian Federation".
The move, condemned as "Orwellian" by its critics, comes shortly before the Russian parliament is expected to pass controversial legislation outlawing the "rehabilitation of Nazism".
The bill has attracted criticism because of its definition of Nazi rehabilitation, with those who "belittle" the Soviet Union's role in the war or criticise it in any way being regarded as equally culpable as those who glorify Hitler.
Those found to contravene the new law, which Russia insists is little different from Germany's Holocaust-denial legislation, face up to five years in prison.
Foreign countries whose officials who the commission rules to be guilty of the new crimes will face sanction as well. The bill gives Russia the authority to expel ambassadors or sever diplomatic relations with offending nations and to impose full transport and communications blockades on them.
The legislation is thought to be primarily aimed at states like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which maintain they were occupied rather than liberated by the Soviet Union. Sergei Shoigu, a senior cabinet minister who initiated the legislation, has already said it could be used to ban senior Estonian officials.
A Russian MP yesterday said that the Baltic states deserved "to suffer punishment" for holding such views.
The new law could also be used to bar Western historians who accuse the Red Army of carrying out atrocities during its advance on Berlin or point out that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were once allies under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.
Seen as a way of teaching recalcitrant former Soviet states respect, the legislation has won almost universal backing in the Russian parliament.
But opposition politicians, who have no representation in parliament, have attacked the bill, saying it effectively reintroduces state ideology for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union.
"The creation of this commission allows the state to impose its own idea of political will and ideology," said Vladimir Ryzhkov, a former Duma deputy who was forced out of parliament in 2007 by a law banning independent MPs.
"The former KGB will once again decide what is anti-Soviet and what is not."
Mr Ryzhkov said that the new legislation was also part of a continuing rehabilitation of Stalin as it will effectively outlaw criticism of many of the former Soviet dictator's policies.
An officially sanctioned history text book, introduced into schools two years ago, presented Stalin as a great leader while glossing over his repression of millions of Soviet citizens.