Putin Condemns 1939 Soviet Treaty with Nazi Germany
By VOA News 31 August 2009
Russia's prime minister has condemned a 1939 non-aggression treaty between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany that secretly divided Europe into spheres of influence and set the stage for World War II.
Vladimir Putin, writing in a leading Polish newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, Monday, called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact immoral. But he also blamed other European countries for refusing to back the Soviet Union, leaving Moscow to face the threat of Nazi Germany alone.
Mr. Putin also described as a crime the 1940 massacre of thousands of Polish military officers and other Poles by Soviet security forces in the Katyn Forest, near the western Russian city of Smolensk. He said "it is our duty to remove the burden of distrust and prejudice left from the past."
The Russian leader visits Poland's Baltic port cities Tuesday, to mark the 70th anniversary of Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland at the start of world war Two.
Weeks after the German invasion, Soviet forces entered Poland from the east. After claiming part of the country, the Soviets annexed the Baltic countries and parts of Finland and Romania.
Sunday, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev defended the Soviet Union's role in the war. He said anyone who tries to lay equal blame for the war on Nazi Germany and the Soviets is telling a "flat-out lie."
There is near universal agreement that Nazi Germany triggered the war with its invasion of Poland. But many Western historians say the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact encouraged Hitler to invade.
For their part, Russian historians contend the Soviet leadership saw the pact as their only alternative, after France and Britain rejected treaty overtures. They insist the deal with Germany bought Moscow time to prepare for war. http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-08-31-voa15.cfm