Russia Moves to Ban Criticism of WWII Win

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For the past two weeks, posters celebrating the Soviet triumph in World War II have been taped to the windows of every store in Russia, proudly displaying the date "9 May" and the orange and black striped ribbon of victory. Red banners have been draped across the fronts of apartment buildings all along the central Moscow parade route. And in the lead-up to the country's annual Victory Day celebrations, the Kremlin has made a move that it touts as yet another display of Russia's patriotism and pride: the government has announced that it is considering passing a law to criminalize statements and acts that deny the Soviets won World War II, or claim it used poor tactics in battle or did not liberate Eastern Europe.

The proposed law is seen by Kremlin-watchers as further evidence of Moscow's continued suppression of dissent at a time when the domestic popularity of President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has slipped thanks to the economic crisis, and amid international fears of growing Russian militarism after its successful war against Georgia last summer. (See TIME's special package on the Russia-Georgia war. )

"I believe the Duma should enact a law that would criminalize the denial of the Soviet victory in World War II," said Sergei Shoigu, head of the powerful Ministry of Emergency Situations and co-chairman of the supreme council of Putin's United Russia party, during a speech to veterans in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) in February, according to reports by Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

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