Medvedev lashes out at World War II ‘falsehoods’

MOSCOW: President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday lashed out at what he said were growing attempts to falsify the history of World War II, saying Russia’s heroism in the conflict should never be put into doubt.

The remarks by Medvedev, which coincide with the celebration of Victory Day in the country tomorrow, reflect increasing frustration in Russia with the position of its ex-Communist Bloc western neighbours towards the conflict.

“We are all the more often encountering what are called historical falsehoods. Also such attempts are becoming tougher, more malicious and aggressive,” Medvedev said.

“It seems that time is distancing us more and more from the war.” “We must not close our eyes to the terrible truth of war. And on the other side we cannot allow anyone to put the heroic deed of our people into doubt,” he said. Western historians of the period have long irritated Russia by emphasising how strategic errors by wartime dictator Joseph Stalin and brutal purges of his top officials complicated the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. In recent years, the celebration of anti-Soviet wartime resistance movements in Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic States has also angered the Kremlin.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in 2007 posthumously decorated Roman Shukhevych, the leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a controversial group that fought Soviet security forces and was accused of Nazi collaboration.

No-one however disputes the Soviet Union’s suffering in the war — according to the Russian authorities 8.6 million Soviet soldiers and 27-28 million civilians were killed in the conflict.

Medvedev said that while it was natural that different interpretations of the war would emerge over time, Russia now had to prove again the “historical truth”. “This is hard and sometimes even, to be honest, disagreeable.” His comments come as the government considers putting a controversial bill towards parliament that would make it a crime to “rehabilitate Nazism” by denying the Soviet victory in World War II.