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Russian Parliament Could Condemn 'Annexation' Of East Germany

East Berliners and West Berliners after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Now, some Russian parliamentary deputies want to condemn the subsequenb reunification of Germany as an "annexation."

Russia's parliament is considering issuing a statement condemning the "annexation" of East Germany by West Germany a quarter of a century ago.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who helped pave the way for the reunification of Germany after decades on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain, swiftly denounced the idea as "nonsense."

Communist lawmaker Nikolai Ivanov made the proposal in Russia's lower house on January 28, saying it would be a fitting response to Western accusations that Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March.

Kremlin-allied State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin instructed the chamber's International Affairs Committee to "examine the possibility" of issuing such a statement.

Negotiations among world leaders, including Gorbachev, resulted in a unification treaty officially granting full sovereignty to Germany on October 3, 1990.

It came nearly a year after Germans long confined to the East, a communist satellite of Moscow, poured into the West when the Berlin Wall was abruptly opened.

Ivanov pointed to the fact that a referendum was held in Crimea before Russia annexed it, while there was no such vote on the reunification of Germany, as justification for the proposed declaration.

Gorbachev dismissed that argument.

"No referendum was needed then, as hundreds of thousands of people both in East Germany and West Germany were demonstrating with a single slogan: 'We Are One Nation!'" he said.

The March 18 referendum in Crimea was held after pro-Russian separatists seized control of the regional parliament and Moscow sent troops to assert control over the region, which had been part of Ukraine since 1954.

It was declared invalid in a vote by the UN General Assembly.

The fate of the proposed declaration will test how far Russia is ready to go to castigate the West amid a confrontation over Ukraine that has driven tensions to their highest point since the Cold War.

In the Duma, where the Kremlin-controlled United Russia party holds a majority of seats, proposals are sometimes used to test reactions at home and abroad, and some of the more outlandish ones are toned down to make them more palatable.

The United States and the European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and support for separatists who have seized parts of eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 5,000 people.

The EU will discuss the possibility of further sanctions on January 29.

While a non-binding Duma declaration would have no international legal consequences, claiming that West Germany annexed East Germany would spark both anger and ridicule in the West.

It would further strain ties between Russia and Germany -- a key trade partner, an influential force behind EU policy toward Moscow, and a focus of Kremlin efforts to promote opposition to the sanctions.

President Vladimir Putin has portrayed Russia's interference in Ukraine as purely defensive, part of a long-overdue response to what he says is a threat posed by the eastward expansion of NATO that followed the collapse of communism and Germany's reunification.

Putin often accuses Western governments of distorting the past, while critics say it is he who has sought to rewrite history by calling Crimea "sacred" Russian land.

Putin, an officer of the Soviet KGB spy agency, was stationed in the East German city of Dresden from 1985-1990.

With reporting by TASS, Interfax, and AFP
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