Medvedev criticises USSR over human rights

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Dmitry Medvedev has launched a wide-ranging attack on the Soviet Union as a totalitarian state that crushed individual liberties in the most outspoken comments on the USSR by a Russian leader in recent years.

Mr Medvedev's comments, which also included stinging criticism on the historical role of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, will be interpreted by many as an attempt to distance himself from Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, who has adopted a more ambiguous stance on Russia's often tragic history.

In an interview Mr Medvedev declared that nothing could justify Stalin's crimes against his own people.

He also spoke out strongly against any attempts to rehabilitate Stalin and sought to distance the Kremlin from a series of recent moves to rekindle his memory.

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