Putin condemns Stalin crimes in televised phone-in (1st Lead)
Dec 3, 2009, 13:56 GMT
Moscow - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sharply criticized Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, his cult of personality, and all forms of totalitarianism during the prime minister's annual televised question- and-answer session Thursday.
'At the time (of Stalin's rule) we had to deal not only with a cult of personality, but with massive crimes against our own people,' Putin said in response to a question on his view of Stalin. 'And we should never forget that.'
Historians and human rights activists have in recent years fingered the Russian leadership for not distancing itself enough from Stalin's crimes. They claim the glorification of Stalin is evidenced in school books and in public life.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently condemned Stalin's legacy in similarly sharp terms.
However, in September, a freshly restored monument featuring Stalin in the Moscow Metro led to further accusations of a re- Stalinization programme by the Russian state.
Also during the phone-in session, Putin dampened hopes that imprisoned government critic and former Yukos oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky would be released before he serves his nine-year jail term.
'It's not about when he will be released, but about making sure that the crimes of which he was convicted do not get repeated,' Putin said.
Putin further addressed last week's train bombing, the financial crisis, and the possibility of his running for president in 2012 during the three-hour conversation.
'The threat is not over,' said Putin, urging all Russians to remain vigilant in light of the attack on a luxury train last Friday that killed 26 people.
Putin spent most of the programme addressing the financial crisis, the worst of which he said had passed.
The Russian ex-president also refused to rule out the possibility of another run for the presidency once Medvedev's term is up.
In a surprise twist Medvedev, on a state visit to Italy and the Vatican, also refused to rule out a possible run in 2012.