Putin Makes it Illegal to Deny Nazi War Crimes

Russian President signs legislation introducing harsh punishments for justification or denial of Nazi war crimes.

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Elad Benari,

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made it illegal to justify or deny Nazi war crimes.

According to AFP, Putin on Monday signed new legislation introducing harsh punishments for such acts.

The legislation makes it a criminal offence to deny facts established by the Nuremberg trials regarding the crimes of the Axis powers and to disseminate "false information about Soviet actions" during World War II, according to the news agency.

Such acts are punishable by up to five years in a prison camp or a fine of 500,000 rubles ($14,000), the law says. Those making such claims in mass media are liable for the harshest punishments.

The legislation was voted through by Russia's upper and lower houses of parliament last month.

It comes as Russia makes more and more explicit comparisons between Ukrainian nationalists and Nazi war criminals.

It regularly condemns the Kiev authorities as supporters of Stepan Bandera, a wartime nationalist leader who collaborated with the Nazis, noted AFP.

Pro-Kremlin lawmaker Leonid Slutsky has compared the Odessa blaze in which at least 42 died amid clashes between pro-Moscow activists and pro-Kiev protesters last week to the Auschwitz death camp.

On the flip side, U.S. officials have compared Putin’s actions in Ukraine to those of the Nazis. In late March, senator John McCain said of Putin’s actions in the Crimean peninsula that "he is calculating what he can get away with just as Adolf Hitler calculated what he could get away with in the 1930s.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made similar comments, but later backtracked and explained that her comments were an attempt for "people to have a little historic perspective."

AFP noted that Russia takes enormous pride in the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War II that came after the price of some 30 million dead.

Its laws already ban public display of Nazi symbols and the distribution of Nazi texts.

Russia will mark World War II victory over the Nazis on Friday in celebrations that are expected to be particularly grandiose this year after its annexation of Crimea in March.