Russian President Vladimir Putin has joined in ceremonies commemorating those who suffered under Soviet-era regimes. Putin laid flowers at a site south of Moscow where large numbers of executions took place: “These memories are necessary for us to understand, to leap forward, to find solutions for the troubles facing our country now and in the future,” Putin said. “Political descent is necessary,” he added.
The Day of Soviet Political Prisoners was marked by events across the country. The occasion was first commemorated in 1974. Human rights activists, who held their own ceremonies yesterday, say it has taken on a new significance under Putin, whom they accuse of rolling back democratic freedoms.
The Russian President staunchly denies their claims saying they are politically motivated. Millions of people in former Soviet states and eastern bloc countries were executed or imprisoned as dissidents under Josef Stalin and other communist-era leaders. Many of those who expressed opposition to the regime, or were even suspected of it, met their fate at prison camps known as gulags.