Nazi Sign on Tank Draws Probe

Prosecutors are investigating a group of military history enthusiasts for extremism because they staged a World War II re-enactment featuring a tank with German army insignia.

Novosibirsk prosecutors say a replica Panzer 38(t) tank, which took part in a mock battle in Siberia with a World War II-era black-and-white cross stenciled on its side, was in breach of a law banning Nazi symbols.

The enthusiasts who staged the event say the allegations are absurd and accuse prosecutors of failing to understand the point of a historical re-enactment.

But Novosibirsk Regional Prosecutor Vladimir Tokarev was adamant.

"If today we do not notice a cross on a tank, tomorrow we will be surprised to see that young people have appeared on the streets with swastikas on their sleeves," he said. "This is precisely why the prosecutor's office has given an instruction ... to painstakingly check what goals this organization is pursuing and whom it represents.

"We cannot ignore such facts. Nothing can be trifling in this case," he said in remarks posted on his office's web site.

The head of the Siberian chapter of the Russian Military History Social Movement said prosecutors were mounting a witch hunt.

"To put it mildly, I am indignant. I'm speechless," Oleg Nelzin said by telephone. "You shouldn't try to find a crime where one just doesn't exist. ... The people involved in this are pretty grown-up, level headed and well-off. If there is a re-enactment, you need an opponent."