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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Agrees to Restore Soviet Star

President Vladimir Putin agreed Tuesday to reinstate the Soviet-era red star as the military's official emblem -- in the latest reincarnation of communist symbols that has sparked fears of a return to the repressive past.

The proposal came from Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who spoke Tuesday at a meeting of top generals that was attended by Putin. "The star is sacred for all servicemen," Ivanov said in televised remarks. "Our fathers and grandfathers went to battle with the star."

Putin quickly endorsed Ivanov's appeal and then voiced hope that the speakers of both houses of parliament would succeed in "convincing" lawmakers to pass the corresponding legislation.

The proposed resurrection of the red star should be popular with the conservative military and appeared to be an attempt by the Kremlin to reinforce servicemen's loyalty. But Putin's critics said it also sent a powerful signal to the rest of the country.

"It's very serious because it doesn't just feed old people's nostalgia but also affects the youth who don't understand the fascist or communist ideologies but are eager to grasp their symbols," Sergei Grigoryants, a Soviet-era dissident and strong critic of the government, said in a telephone interview.

On Putin's initiative, the parliament earlier resurrected the music of the old Soviet anthem, albeit with new words, and brought back the Soviet-era red banner as the military's flag. At the same time, it also endorsed the tsarist-era white, red and blue flag that Russia has been using since the 1991 Soviet demise and the old imperial emblem of a double-headed eagle.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a Soviet-era dissident who heads the Moscow Helsinki Group, a leading human rights organization, said that Putin has turned to old symbols in a bid to strengthen his support base.

"No one is left out: Communists get their anthem, the conservatives have a double-headed eagle and democrats their tricolor flag," she said. "It makes one wonder what kind of national ideology such a state has."

The proposed restoration of the star would probably easily pass through parliament, which is dominated by pro-government centrists.