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Thursday 28 August 2014

Prince's Hitler jibe at Putin triggers international furore

Gordon Rayner

Published 22/05/2014 | 02:30

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Prince Charles
Prince Charles

A senior Russian ambassador is to meet an official from the British Foreign Office today after Prince Charles caused a diplomatic row by comparing Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler.

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The prince made his remark, in which he likened Russia's annexation of Crimea to the actions of Nazi Germany, during a visit to a museum of immigration in Halifax, Canada.

He told a woman whose relations were murdered in the Holocaust: "And now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler."

Russian diplomats last night contacted the Foreign Office seeking an urgent meeting to clarify whether Prince Charles's provocative remarks amounted to an "official position".

As a result, Russia's deputy ambassador will meet a senior FCO official today.

The comments are regarded as particularly offensive by Moscow as 20 million Russians were killed during the war, including members of Mr Putin's family.

A senior Russian diplomatic source said: "We are seeking clarification at a working level. It's not clear if it is an official position.

The response from Clarence House, the prince's official residence, is that it was a private talk.

After years of thaw, including the awarding of medals to the British veterans of the World War II Arctic Convoys, British and Russian relations were put into "deep freeze" after the Russian occupation of Crimea.

The European Union and US responded with sanctions on Russian MPs and the suspension of defence deals.

The Russian president has sought to revive the memory of the "Great Patriotic War" in order to bolster his reputation as the leader of a resurgent Russia. Prince Charles and Mr Putin are due to appear together at the anniversary of the D-Day landings in France next month.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has defended the prince over his comparison, saying that the heir to the throne is "entitled to his views".

He told BBC Breakfast: "I have never been of the view that if you are a member of the royal family somehow you have to enter into some sort of Trappist vow of silence."

Not every MP was as sympathetic. Mike Gapes, the Labour MP and member of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: "In a constitutional monarchy, policy and diplomacy should be conducted by Parliament and Government. "Monarchy should be seen and not heard." The Russian media took a stronger stance, warning that the Prince's comment could "trigger an international scandal".

The 'Moskovskij Komsomolets', a Russian daily, said that the prince had risked complicating already "not unclouded" UK-Russian relations. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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