European officials remain “sluggish” in their response to efforts at rewriting the history of World War II and to claims of discrimination against the Russian-speaking minority in the Baltic states, an official from Moscow has told a meeting of ethnic Russians in Belgium.
Grigory Karasin, Russia’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, told the third annual European Russian Forum that “the Russian community in traditional overseas countries could play an important role in supporting fellow compatriots in the (Commonwealth of Independent States) and the Baltic states, by drawing on its rich practice of ethnocultural survival in a foreign environment.”
The forum was initiated three years ago by Tatjana Ždanoka, who is a member of the European Parliament representing Latvia and a member of the pro-Russian political party For Human Rights in United Latvia (Par cilvēka tiesībām vienotā Latvijā).
Speaking Nov. 9 in Brussels, Karasin applauded the forum’s effort to encourage dialogue between the European Union and Russia, according to a transcript of his speech released by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
However, he criticized those in Europe who would rewrite history, particularly attempts to equate Nazi Germany with the Soviet Union.
“I am deeply convinced: to try to make the USSR a culprit or accomplice of the unleashing of this war means to mock at common sense and cynically manipulate the facts,” Karasin said. “And from the human point of view—just to desecrate the memory of the 27 million Soviet citizens who gave their lives in the fight against fascism.”
Karasin zeroed in on the Baltic states, and especially Latvia, noting that “for some time now they have been openly making heroes of those who during the Second World War joined the Nazis and participated in their crimes under the pretext of fighting against the Soviet regime.”
Authorities also have turned against anti-fascist fighters, Karasin said. He pointed to the case of Soviet war veteran Vassili Makarovich Kononov, who in 2003 was convicted in Latvia of war crimes. The conviction was overturned in 2008 by the European Court of Human Rights, but now is under appeal to the court’s Grand Chamber. Kononov was implicated in a May 1944 incident at Kārsava, Latvia, in which nine civilians were killed by Soviet commandos for allegedly collaborating with German forces.
Latvia’s foreign minister, Māris Riekstiņš, responded to Karasin’s criticism by observing that recent efforts by various Russian officials to influence the court’s decision are unacceptable. Russian representatives are without reason criticizing others for politicizing history, but they are doing the same, Riekstiņš said in statement issued Nov. 9 by the Latvian Foreign Ministry’s press office.
Karasin told the forum that Russia also has repeatedly raised questions with European officials about discrimination against the Russian-speaking minority in the Baltics, noting problems such as “mass statelessness, the systematic liquidation of Russian-language secondary education (and) discrimination in the labor market.”
“We feel compelled to state a sluggish reaction of our European partners to Russia’s concerns,” Karasin said.
For this reason, the official said, it is important to solidify links between Russia and the Russian diaspora. Karasin noted the upcoming World Congress of Compatriots, scheduled Dec. 1-2 in Moscow. The congress is expected to draw 500 representatives from 90 countries.
“We are for the continued buildup of links with the Russian community abroad so that each of you feels the support of your historic homeland and sees a reliable mainstay in it,” Karasin said. The congress, he said, “will be another step towards the consolidation of the Russian overseas community.”
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