Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has said the Soviet Union was “totalitarian”

Baltics welcome Medvedev concession
The Baltic Times, Oskars Magone, May 07, 2010

MOSCOW — Leaders from the Baltic States have welcomed statements from Russian President Dmitri Medvedev concerning the alleged crimes of the Soviet Union.

A major bone of contention in diplomatic relations between the Baltic States and Russia lies in crimes committed by the Soviet Union.

In an interview with the Izvestia newspaper published two days before Russia marks the 65th anniversary of victory in World War II, Medvedev said the crimes of wartime dictator Joseph Stalin could never be forgiven.

“The Soviet Union was a very complicated state and if we speak honestly the regime that was built in the Soviet Union… cannot be called anything other than totalitarian,” he said. “Unfortunately, this was a regime where elementary rights and freedoms were suppressed.”

Medvedev’s comments mark a significant change from his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, who has said that the fall of the Soviet Union was the  “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”.

Baltic leaders have recently been positive about warming relations with Russia.

“It is obvious that Russian leaders are changing their attitude towards history,” said Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubiliusin an interview with Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.

Newly-appointed Latvian foreign minister Aivis Ronis has praised the apparent change in position.

After a meeting with Latvian President Valdis Zatlers today, Ronis told members of the press that ”this is a step forward, and the Russian president is close to reiterating our interpretation of our history.”

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