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Russia Mulls Special Day To Recognize Its 'Polite People'

  • Tom Balmforth

A soldier -- one of the so-called "polite people" -- stands guard near a Ukrainian border guards base not far from the Crimean village of Perevalne near Simferopol on March 3.

A soldier -- one of the so-called "polite people" -- stands guard near a Ukrainian border guards base not far from the Crimean village of Perevalne near Simferopol on March 3.

MOSCOW -- Russia is considering making October 7 a special calendar day in honor of the so-called "polite people," the catchphrase used in Russia to describe the thousands of soldiers who annexed Crimea in February and March.

A bill to instate a Day of the Polite People was introduced in the State Duma last month. On October 3 it was given the thumbs-up from Russia's Defense Ministry.

The Kremlin has said it is "aware" of the initiative, although it has claimed the decision lies with lawmakers.

The term "polite people" emerged in late February when Russian soldiers without insignia flooded into Crimea, seizing strategic positions across the peninsula -- from airports and Ukrainian military bases to the parliament building.

As the Kremlin strenuously denied the troops were Russian, the soldiers were caustically dubbed "little green men" in Ukraine and "polite people" in Russia due to their alleged gentle demeanor.

Eyewitnesses on Russian television had described the troops as having behaved "politely."

A month later, Russia sealed its annexation of Crimea with a rapidly organized referendum.

On April 17, the Kremlin finally admitted publicly that the soldiers were Russian and praised their "professionalism."

The "polite people" meme has enduring popularity. One of the various T-shirts adulating Putin currently on sale in Moscow displays a portrait of the Russian president in camouflage and sunglasses with the caption: "The Most Polite Man."

The bill was submitted to the State Duma for consideration on September 16 and has the backing of the Russian military.

"This legislative initiative is really interesting," Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov told the pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia." "According to our assessment, it has been positively received in all the garrisons and military bases. We believe that this initiative deserves attention as well as calm fine-tuning, which we are also working on."

If agreed in time, the proposed Day of Polite People happens to land on Vladimir Putin’s birthday, October 7. That is also the day when investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was assassinated in Moscow in 2006.

Russia is also considering another day to commemorate the military, the Day of the Unknown Soldier, on December 3. It has received backing from Sergei Ivanov, the powerful Kremlin chief of staff.

The proposal comes as numerous reports point to many Russian soldiers having died fighting alongside rebel separatists against Ukraine’s Army in the east of the country -- reports that the Kremlin strenuously denies.

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