Members of the Russian parliament are creating a task force to estimate the damages inflicted on Russia by Germany during WWII, in a bid to demand financial compensation from the German state almost 70 years after the end of the conflict, Russian daily newspaper Izvestia reported on Tuesday.
The initiative is a direct response to trade sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and EU, for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March and continuous support of separatist fighters in Eastern Ukraine since, according to Mikhail Degyaterov, an MP from the Liberal Democrat Party of Russia, who has proposed the task force.
“Practically, Germany paid nothing to the USSR for its wave of destruction and savagery during the Second World War,” said Degyaterov.
“After the Yalta convention the USSR took back some German assets - largely looted furniture, clothes and industrial equipment, as well as some spoils of war - but largely there was no compensation of the war’s economic blow to the USSR,” Degyaterov added.
According to Degyaterov, Russian satellite East Germany was not liable for the reparations because it and the Soviet Union had a legally binding agreement not to demand reparations. Such an agreement was never made with West Germany, however, and after the USSR’s collapse and the reunification of East and West Germany, the bill for the war should now be footed to their modern successor - the German Federation.
“Worse still, Germany continues to inflict economic damage to Russia, by extending EU-trade sanctions,” Degyaterov added, referring to the series of trade restrictions the EU has imposed on Russia following the latter’s backing of separatist militants in Ukraine which have caused a crisis in the Russian economy and run on the rouble.
Russia is not the only country disputing WWII reparations with Germany. Calls for greater reparations have got louder in Greece in recent years, particularly in the face of German-imposed austerity.
Degyaterov is among those individuals, personally blacklisted by the US and EU for his vocal support for pro-Russian forces in east Ukraine. However, he shrugged off the sanctions in July, arguing he did not have overseas assets and was not greatly affected by them.
“Throughout the duration of the war, 30% of our country’s treasures and national heritage, while 1,710 Soviet cities were destroyed, alongside over 70,000 towns and villages, 32,000 industrial sites, while some 100,000 farming sites were ruined,” Degyaterov said, referring to figures compiled by Stalin’s USSR committee which estimated damages after the war.
According to Degyaterov these material damages amount to $600 billion, while he also estimated that by virtue of the same principle which obliged Germany to pay Israel €60 billion for the Nazi regime’s execution of over six million Jews during the Holocaust, Russia is owed more as a result to the loss of life on Soviet soil at the hands of the Nazi army.
“Germany paid compensation for the six million victims of the Holocaust but ignored the 27 million Soviet citizens killed, 16 million of whom were peaceful civilians.”
“It appears that, with all that considered, under the current exchange Germany owes reparations of no less than €3-4 trillion, which it must pay to the successor of the Soviet Union - Russia,” Degtyarev said.
The Russian MP expressed his hope that other countries will join the ranks of his task force and request reimbursement from Germany, extending an open invite to willing representatives of Belarus, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.
The chairman of the Russian parliament’s defence committee, admiral Vladimir Komoedov has applauded Degtyarev’s initiative, lamenting the loss of “human capital” to the Soviet union as a result of the war.
“It is no secret that if there had not been a war, the Russian population would be 300-400 million today and we would be in a completely different economic condition,” Komoedov said.
The initiative has also received the support of Russian historian Sergey Fokin, who argued the the task force can put forward a reminder of the Russian contribution to defeating Nazism, particularly to German Chancellor Angela Merkel - one of the main supporters of the current sanctions imposed on Moscow.
“It is unlikely that Germany will end up paying anything because of this but it is necessary to remind ourselves about history,” Fokin said.
“It is possible that frau Merkel, who so longs for more sanctions against Russia, would never even have been born if it were not for the kindness of the victors towards the defeated,” Fokunin said, referring to social programmes organised by the USSR in East Germany after the war.
Angela Merkel grew up in a small town north of East Berlin, making her the first German Chancellor to have been a citizen of the Soviet occupied half of the country during the Cold war.
In response to the economic sanctions placed on Russia by the Eurozone, led by Merkel, the Russian parliament is also currently discussing changing the historical status of the German state’s reunification.
A proposal is currently being discussed by Russian MPs to recognize German reunification as an annexation of Eastern Germany by West German forces, since the two became one state after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.
The German embassy in London declined to comment.