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Russian Communists probed for ‘Putler’ slogan

Moscow — Prosecutors in the Russian Far East have launched an investigation against Communist activists who used a slogan in a demonstration merging the name of Adolf Hitler with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday.

It said the probe had been launched on the request of the governor of the Primorye Region after protestors in the January 31 demonstration unfurled a banner reading "Putler Kaput!!!" in the centre of Vladivostok.

The slogan recalled the famous slogan of "Hitler Kaput!" used in World War II by the Red Army fighting Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

The demonstration was a joint protest by the Communist Party and the local TIGR protest movement, which is furiously opposing a government move to raise tariffs on imported cars.

Primorye Deputy Governor Alexander Shemelev told Kommersant that the protest had been held at unauthorized location and several slogans, including "Putler Kaput" required "legal examination" under an anti-extremism law.

Local Communist Party official Pavel Ashikhmin told the newspaper that prosecutors had already questioned the party over the slogan.

"It was done with a sense of humour and there is nothing extreme in it at all,” he said. “Attempts to probe it legally are beyond reason."

He said the slogan also referred to a local inhabitant whose surname is indeed Putler and who was considering leaving the region after he was financially ruined by the decision to raise tariffs.

"It’s impossible to live and work in this region," Ashikhmin said.

Thousands of Russians in the Far East earn their living from the import, dealing or repair of cars mainly from Japan, which is far closer to their region than the Russian factories the government is trying to promote.

The ruling United Russia party polled less than 11 percent of the vote in local elections in a district of the region in elections last week, the Russian weekly Newsweek reported.

The Communist Party formed one-party state in Soviet Union but now ironically forms the only serious opposition to United Russia in the lower house of parliament.