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Acting President Vladimir Putin sent a letter to President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia in protest against Latvian court sentencing a former Soviet partisan, Vasily Kononov

February 18, 2000

The letter said, in part:

“On January 21, the Riga District Court sentenced a 77-year-old World War II veteran and former partisan, Vasily Kononov, to six years in prison for having committed ‘war crimes’.

The sentence has shocked the whole Russian society.

I have received numerous messages from human rights and veteran organizations, as well as individuals, asking me to intervene on the side of justice and prevent a person from being convicted for fighting Nazism. This is the first time such an event takes place in world practice.

There is a great deal of concern that the Riga court ruling might set a precedent for persecuting people who during World War II fought on the side of anti-Hitler coalition member-countries.

Nor does the sentence legally comply with the norms of international law and the decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal.

I cannot omit to draw your attention to the humanitarian aspect of the matter: the convicted person is an old man in very poor health who has already spent a year and a half in prison.

I appeal to you, Madame President, to exercise your powers and authority to have this harsh and unjust sentence reviewed.

Should Vasily Kononov be released, we would be ready to receive him and his family in Russia.

I wish to stress that Russia’s relations with Latvia will continue, as in the past, depending on the situation with the whole spectrum of humanitarian issues. I am certain, therefore, that your intervention in the Kononov case would be appreciated in Russia and meet long-term interests of Russian-Latvian relations.”

February 18, 2000