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Russia may declare 1990 reunification illegal

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Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: DPA
15:54 CET+01:00
More than 25 years after the Berlin Wall's fall, Russian lawmakers are mulling a proposal to condemn West Germany's 1990 "annexation" of East Germany as Moscow's answer to Western denunciation of its seizure of Crimea.

Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of Russian parliament's lower house, on Wednesday ordered legislators to consider an appeal from a Communist Party deputy to denounce the reunification of Germany as an illegal land grab of East Germany by its western neighbour.

The collapse of Socialist rule in East Germany - officially known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR) - heralded the end of the Cold War, and was met with jubilation in the West.

But the Communist lawmaker sponsoring the proposal argued the absorption of the GDR - a Soviet Union satellite since the end of WWII - into a unified Germany in October 1990 was illegal.

"Unlike Crimea, a referendum was not conducted in the German Democratic Republic," Nikolai Ivanov was quoted saying before the Russian parliament's lower house, the State Duma.

The desire by some to revise Moscow's position on one of the late twentieth century's most momentous events is born of anger over international condemnation of Russia's own seizure of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in March - and an apparent yearning to match it.

"We understand that Western hypocrisy knows no limits," Ivanov told AFP, singling out German Chancellor Angela Merkel for particular criticism over her tough stance on the Ukraine crisis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself a KGB officer in East Germany when the Berlin Wall fell, spearheaded the annexation of Crimea against a backdrop of patriotic fervour last year.

Ivanov said he could not predict the future of his initiative -- which will be examined by parliament's foreign affairs committee -- but stated he was sure he had the "moral support" of fellow lawmakers.

But the notion that West Germany had illegally annexed its eastern neighbour was met with scorn by one key figure from that period.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev -- who is praised in the West for his decision not to use force to quell uprisings in Eastern Europe, and to let the Berlin Wall crumble -- called the contention "nonsense."

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Speaking to the Interfax news agency, Gorbachev said: "What annexation? One cannot even talk about it."

"What referendum could one talk about when one hundred thousand-strong demonstrations were taking place in both countries -- both in East and West Germany - with one slogan only: 'We are one people!'"

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