LONDON: Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has likened Russian President Vladimir Putin to German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler over his stance on Ukraine, according to a British newspaper.
During a royal tour of Canada, the 65-year-old prince told a Jewish woman who fled from Poland during World War Two that “Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler”, the Daily Mail said yesterday.
Charles’s remarks, described by a royal source as “well-intentioned” and not meant to be public, were leading news reports in Britain where the government has been a strong critic of Moscow over its public support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Several high-profile figures have made a link between Russian moves against Ukraine, including annexation of Crimea, and German aggression leading to World War Two.
In March, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to clarify remarks suggesting Putin’s justification for his incursion into Crimea to protect ethnic Russians was reminiscent of claims made by Hitler over foreign territories.
“Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ‘30s,” she said, later explaining she had not meant to make a comparison but said lessons could be learned from history.
Germany’s conservative finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble also denied making similar remarks a few weeks later.
Russia dismisses such comparisons and says Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine are under threat from a Kiev government in the sway of militant Ukrainian nationalists.
The Daily Mail said the prince’s comments were made during a conversation with Marienne Ferguson, 78, who lost relatives during the Holocaust, when they spoke at a Museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she works as a volunteer. “I had finished showing him the exhibit and talked with him about my own family background and how I came to Canada,” she told the paper.
“The prince then said ‘And now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler. I was very surprised that he made the comment as I know they (Britain’s royals) aren’t meant to say these things but it was very heartfelt and honest.”
A spokeswoman for Charles’s office said they did not comment on his private conversations. “We would like to stress that the Prince of Wales would not seek to make a public political statement during a private conversation,” she said.
Traditionally, Britain’s royal family does not voice political views in public with the head of state merely a constitutional figurehead. During her long reign, Queen Elizabeth has never aired any such personal sentiments.
Meanwhile, Russia said that troops deployed for exercises near the Ukrainian border had now dismantled equipment and were moving to train stations and airfields for return to their permanent bases, but Nato said it saw no sign of a pullout.
The Kremlin said that President Vladimir Putin had told his defence chief to order troops to pull back from the frontier with Ukraine, where eastern regions have fallen largely under the control of pro-Russian rebels.
After spending a day dismantling field camps, packing and preparing military vehicles, forces in the Rostov, Belgorod and Bryansk provinces “have begun to move toward train stations and airfields”, the Defence Ministry said.