Prince Charles made what Russians are calling a ‘scandalous’ comment in a private conversation when he compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler.
Prince Charles is facing a call for his abdication and a frosty response in Moscow after reportedly comparing Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Charles blundered into the international crisis over Russia’s actions in Ukraine during a tour of Canada, when he spoke to a woman who fled the Nazis and lost family members during the Holocaust.
According to the Daily Mail, the prince compared the Russian president to the Nazi leader when talking to Marienne Ferguson, a museum volunteer who moved to Canada with her Jewish family when she was just 13. “Now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler,” Charles is reported to have said.
Charles’s remarks have been criticised across the political spectrum in Britain: the Labour MP Mike Gapes called for his abdication, while the outspoken Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, said the prince was wrong to get involved.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, pointedly refused to discuss the issue when approached by journalists. But the popular Russian daily Moskovskij Komsomolets (MK) said Charles’s remarks risked “triggering an international scandal”.
MK said Charles’s comments risked complicating already “clouded” UK-Russian relations.
Peskov initially said he knew nothing about the comments, according to Sky News. He later told the BBC’s Moscow correspondent, Steve Rosenberg, the Kremlin was “not commenting right now” on the story.
Anti-Russia activists in Ukraine praised Charles’s remarks. “Good old Charley,” commented one contributor to the Facebook page of Euromaidan, which helped organise the protests in the Ukrainian capital Kiev that led to the ousting of the pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych.
Labour MP Gapes, a current member and former chairman of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, said the prince should have kept his views private. The Ilford South MP tweeted: “If Prince Charles wants to make controversial statements on national or international issues, he should abdicate and stand for election.
Ukip’s Farage is reported to have said: “There are times when it might be better for Prince Charles not to get involved in things like this.”
On the other hand
Britain’s former ambassador to Russia, Sir Tony Brenton, said it was a “grotesque exaggeration” to compare Russia’s actions in Crimea with those of the Nazis. But he said Charles’ intervention could help Russia reconsider its policy in Ukraine.
Speaking to BBC News, Brenton said: “It will be picked up in public circles in Russia .. The Russians have taken over Crimea, they are debating with themselves about where to go next. The fact that they have generated the impression in some minds that they are behaving a bit as Hitler behaved, while I think is a false judgement, will help [them] to reconsider a little bit.”
Brenton added: “Hitler is the ultimate ogre in Russian public opinion … The fact that Russian policy is generating these sort of reactions ought to have a calming effect there.”
Deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said Charles was “free to express himself”.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Clegg said: “I have never been of this view that if you are a member of the royal family somehow you have to enter into some Trappist vow of silence. I think he is entitled to his views. But I don’t know whether those were his views because I just don’t think providing a running commentary on what were private conversations is useful to anybody.
“I don’t know exactly what he did or didn’t say in that conversation because he thought it was a private conversation,” Clegg added.
Asked if he agreed there were parallels to be drawn, he said: “I’m not going to start comparing one period of European history to another.
Heaven forbid one period of European history is compared to another. Wouldn’t want to compare one invasion to another, or one genocide to another. Geez, that would be like comparing apples to. . . apples.