Comparison of Sochi with Hitler games riles Russians

Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia performs in the Women's Figure Skating Team Free Program at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the Sochi Winter Olympics on Feb 9, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia performs in the Women's Figure Skating Team Free Program at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the Sochi Winter Olympics on Feb 9, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) - A Russian opposition radio station prompted angry rebukes on Tuesday for publishing a blog that compared the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi to the 1936 Olympics hosted by Adolf Hitler.

For the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin in particular, the Sochi games are a huge matter of national pride while a comparison to Nazi Germany is the ultimate insult.

The blog published on the website of Echo of Moscow radio station compared 15-year-old Russian figure skater Julia Lipnitskaia, who sealed victory in a team event on Sunday, to a German shotputting champion at the 1936 games in Berlin.

"I really like that little girl on skates a lot, but just imagine how much Berliners in summer 1936 liked the shotputter Hans Woelke," wrote satirist Viktor Shenderovich.

"Today though, something stops us from enjoying his victory. That's because we know the final cost of his sporting feat - a price including Dachau and Coventry and Katyn and Leningrad," he wrote.

"Not that Hans was to blame, of course, but it turned out that he facilitated this."

The blog prompted sharp criticism, including from deputy parliament speaker Vladimir Vasilyev, who told MPs that Echo of Moscow should apologise for comparing Sochi to "events that were essentially fascist." "Society will not accept insults to veterans," he said.

"This is some kind of unhealthy act. All athletes will agree with me," bobsledder Irina Skvortsova, who sat next to Mr Putin at the Sochi opening ceremony, told ITAR-TASS news agency.

Ms Lipnitskaia "is defending Russia's honour, there's no politics," she added.

Both Echo of Moscow chief editor Alexei Venediktov and Shenderovich refused to apologise, however.

"The radio station has nothing to apologise for," Mr Venediktov said in a statement.

Mr Shenderovich, who in the 1990s created a satirical puppet series similar to Britain's Spitting Image, told the radio station: "There is absolutely nothing to apologise for here... I said exactly what I wanted to say."

Chess champion turned opposition politician Garry Kasparov last week made a similar comparison in an article published on US website The Daily Beast.

The start of the Sochi Olympics has coincided with a crackdown on an opposition television channel, Dozhd, whose main cable providers have cut off access.

The ostensible reason was a phone-in that asked viewers to vote whether the Soviets should have surrendered to end the Siege of Leningrad during World War II, still a hugely emotive event.

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