Vladimir Putin: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen!
I am very happy to welcome to Moscow representatives of one of Europe’s most prominent and influential international organizations, the European Jewish Congress.
In Russia we are well aware of the great contribution that your Congress has made to the development of inter-faith dialogue. You do a lot to preserve the memory of the victims of Nazism by making popular educational programmes.
Your organization has participant status in the Council of Europe and is part of the Conference of International NGOs sponsored by the Council. This also provides additional opportunities for our interaction.
At the meeting of the Executive Committee of the European Jewish Congress that just concluded in Moscow, preparations for a pan-European programme of action against extremism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism was discussed.
We support the initiatives of the European Jewish Congress in this area, and believe that your work is an important complement to all the efforts of international organisations and institutions, aimed at enhancing mutual understanding and tolerance.
We are ready to study the results and put them into practice in the future. I note as well that issues of inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue and the protection of the rights of national minorities were among the priorities of Russia's presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, when we served in that capacity in 2006.
I particularly want to emphasise that Russia’s principal denominations have been proactive in the development of inter-faith dialogue, an important instrument in the modern world. And I want to draw to your attention the fact that, according to Russian law, Judaism is one of Russia’s traditional denominations.
Displays of chauvinism, xenophobia and aggressive nationalism now confront virtually all countries, including states with deep historical democratic traditions. Unfortunately there have been isolated incidents of anti-Semitism and extremist groups in Russia. Some marginal political forces are trying to exploit nationalist slogans. We understand perfectly the threat that the propaganda of nationalism and chauvinism represents for our multi-ethnic and multi-confessional society. And therefore the fight against any manifestations of xenophobia and the prevention of conflicts based on ethnicity are particularly important to us. Russian law enforcement agencies conduct a thorough investigation of all incidents caused by nationalism and racism.
We are paying very close attention to the creation of favourable conditions for the free development of all nations and ethnic groups, national cultures and languages. In 2006, Russia established an Advisory Council in support of regions with cultural and ethnic autonomy. It includes many of the leaders of our country’s ethnic communities, including those representing Jewish Cultural autonomy region. In addition, there is an interdepartmental commission for cooperation among ethnic minorities public associations. Within these structures a dialogue with minorities groups and the expatriate communities is taking place on the major aspects of national policy. I want to emphasize that funding for public policy relating to minorities groups occupies a separate category in the federal budget, which is quite unique for our budgetary process.
I would like to turn to another important topic. Russia has the greatest respect for the work of the Jewish communities to preserve the historical truth of the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes, and of course for the glorious deeds of the soldiers who died freeing Europe from the “brown plague”.
History has shown many times that when nationalism and anti-semitism run rampant, it is the result of neglecting the lessons of the past, of the attempts to rewrite history and to sow the seeds of revanchism. And consequently one cannot but be alarmed by appearances in Europe (including in the EU countries) of a tendency to rewrite history in this area, attempts to cast doubts on the liberating role of the anti-Hitler coalition armies, including the Soviet army during the Second World War, and attempts to whitewash the crimes of Nazism.
For example, some of the facts with which we have been confronted in some countries of Eastern Europe have frankly provoked astonishment and incomprehension. We know that Holocaust denial is a crime in a number of European countries. At the same time, the Latvian and Estonian authorities have openly condoned the glorification of Nazis and their accomplices. And these facts have gone unnoticed by the European Union countries. In Estonia, after the declaration of independence there, not a single Nazi offender was punished. In Latvia, every year on March 16, with the permission of the authorities, neo-Nazis meet on the anniversary of the creation of the Latvian Legion Waffen SS.
We also see the strange position, bordering on hypocrisy, of some European institutions concerning the transfer of the Soldier Liberator monument in Tallinn. I want to note with gratitude the position of Jewish organisations in the Baltic States, which directly, openly and honestly stated their position on this issue. I would like to express our appreciation and gratitude for this.
Here is another example. Certain political forces in Ukraine are trying to whitewash the members of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Rebel Army responsible for the mass extermination of Jews in Ukraine. I think this is totally unacceptable.
Again, such moves are fraught with great danger, the growth of mistrust and intolerance on our continent. Therefore, we expect that states and public organizations, including the European Jewish Congress, will not ignore them or neglect to respond they way they should.
I am glad that you were able to meet in Russia, in Moscow. And please accept once again my most heartfelt welcome.