Germany's Schaeuble likens Putin moves to Hitler's: report
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Monday compared Russia's seizure of Crimea to Nazi aggression in Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II, according to a media report.
The outspoken veteran politician said Russian President Vladimir Putin's declared desire to protect Russians and Russian-speakers in Crimea was similar to how Hitler justified the Third Reich's expansionist drive.
"Such methods were already adopted by Hitler in Sudetenland," Schaeuble told schoolchildren at a ministry event, news weekly Der Spiegel reported on its website.
"We all know that from history," added the 71-year-old.
The German-speaking part of Bohemia, the Sudetenland, was ceded to Germany in 1938 before the outbreak of World War II when the republic was occupied by the Nazis.
A finance ministry spokesman said he could not confirm Schaeuble's specific comments but said the minister had had no intention "of comparing Russia in any way with the Third Reich".
"If anyone had the impression that the minister had compared the Russian president with Hitler, this would be wrong," the spokesman said.
Schaeuble's provocative analogy clashes with the official German line of keeping dialogue with Russia open in the hope of reaching a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine crisis.
Diplomats have been scrambling to find a peaceful resolution as Russia's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula has plunged East-West relations to their worst level since the Cold War.
Ukrainian demonstrators have also compared the Kremlin's decision to send troops to Crimea to the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland on protest placards.
And former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton ran into trouble this month for reportedly likening Putin's steps in Ukraine to Hitler's actions in the 1930s.
Asked about Schaeuble's remarks later Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel refused to endorse them but repeated her position that Russia's moves in Crimea violated international law.
"I consider the annexation of Crimea to be a unique case," she said.
Meanwhile opposition deputies blasted Schaeuble's comments as unhelpful and historically off-base.
Claudia Roth of the Greens told Die Welt newspaper such a "comparison with Hitler's terror regime" was "not on".
And Sevim Dagdelen of the far-left Linke demanded an apology from Schaeuble "so as to not further strain our relationship with Russia".
© 2014 AFP