Putin Warns of Neo-Nazism in Ukraine and Europe Ahead of WW2 Memorial

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Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with members of the All-Russian People's Front group to discuss issues on education in Penza, October 15, 2014. Reuters/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that a trend of “open neo-Nazism” has become “commonplace” in Latvia and the Baltic states as well as Ukraine, singling out Kiev’s revolution as a “particularly troubling example” while speaking to Serbian media on Wednesday, ahead of his visit to Belgrade, Serbia, this week.

“What went on in Ukraine in February is particularly troubling in this respect, as an unconstitutional government coup occurred, driven by nationalist and other radical groups,” Putin told Serbian daily newspaper Politika.

The Russian president spoke ahead of Thursday’s military parade in Belgrade, which commemorates the 70th anniversary of the city’s liberation from Nazi occupation at the hands of the Soviet Red Army, and which Putin will attend in person.

In the interview the Russian president went on to praise the efforts of the Russian and Serbian peoples in jointly defeating, the “criminal, inhumane ideology” of Nazism, “which once threatened the very existence of human civilization.”

“Now it is our shared duty to oppose the heroization of Nazis, while continuing to combat all forms of racism, xenophobia, aggressive nationalism and chauvinism,” Putin added as he warned again that the “Nazi vaccine, developed in the Nuremberg trials” is now "losing its effectiveness in some European states."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia has already come out strongly against Putin’s accusation that the country is veering closer to neo-Nazism, and a spokesman for the ministry addressed Putin, saying “Russia needs to look in the mirror.”

Speaking on behalf of Latvia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Karlis Eichenbaum accused Putin of waging an “information war” with the Baltic states and “other European democracies.”

In its post-Soviet history Latvia has strived to distinguish itself from its Russian neighbor by controversially celebrating the day some 30,000 Latvian Waffen SS troops inflicted defeat on the Russian-led Soviet Red Army during World War II.

Fears over Russia’s increasing influence in Latvia have been raised among Latvians as 64 percent consider Russia a threat to the Latvian nation. Russian air force has, in the meantime, continued to violate Latvian airspace, even prompting President Obama to warn Russia against its aggressive attitude toward its NATO-aligned Baltic neighbors.