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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Refuses to Renounce Pact

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ruled out any new renunciation of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, saying the Congress of People's Deputies had condemned it as illegal in 1989.

"What more is needed? What, should we renounce it every year?" Putin said at a news conference. "We consider this issue closed and will not return to it. We pronounced it once, and that is enough."

On the eve of Victory Day celebrations, the Baltic states stepped up demands that Moscow issue a statement of contrition for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a deal with the Nazis that led to the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, including the three Baltic states.

U.S. President George W. Bush also took aim at the pact a day before he arrived in Moscow, telling a gathering in Riga on Saturday that the Soviet domination of Central and Eastern Europe after World War II will be remembered as "one of the greatest wrongs of history."

Bush, who in recent days has urged Russia to own up to its wartime past, also acknowledged that the United States played a significant role in the division of Europe.

Bush said the agreement in 1945 at Yalta among President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet leader Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill "followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact."

The decisions at Yalta led to the division of Eastern Europe and the creation of the Soviet bloc.

"Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable," Bush said.

"We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations -- appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability," he said, in remarks that appeared to be an attempt to set an example for Putin.

Putin, however, insisted Tuesday that even though Soviet deputies had renounced the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1989, the pact had not brought the Baltics into the Soviet Union. "If the Baltic countries became part of the U.S.S.R. in 1939, then there is no way we could occupy them in 1941, since they were already part of the Soviet Union," Putin said in reply to a question from an Estonian journalist. "Maybe I did not study very well at the university because I drank a lot of beer in Soviet times, but I have something left in my head because the history professors were good."

Putin urged the Baltics to make peace with the past. "What, are we going to allow the dead to grab us by the sleeves and prevent us from moving forward?" he said.

Some European newspapers suggested that the Kremlin was worried that Bush's criticism of the Soviet occupation could help build international support against Russia.

Italy's La Repubblica quoted an unidentified adviser to Putin as saying the Kremlin is feeling a "worrying international hostility."

"Putin believed yesterday that Bush was serious [about postwar occupation] and that part of Europe is backing him," the newspaper said Tuesday. "By 2006 they'll do their best to sweep away the 'friendly' regime of [Belarussian President Alexander] Lukashenko.

"But the problem -- people in the Kremlin say -- is not an overthrow of the Minsk regime. The threat is that color revolutions could be imported into Russia before the 2008 presidential election.

"Putin does not like the idea that Bush came to visit him and at the same time is financing those who might dismantle his power."

Bush's criticism was echoed Monday by European Parliament President Josep Borrell, who challenged Russia by saying the end of World War II brought new totalitarian regimes to Eastern Europe. "Today, we have to realize that at that time, the end of the war brought peace and freedom only to half of the continent," Borrell said in a speech to the European Parliament, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, a group of U.S. congressmen visiting Lithuania said Monday that Russia should denounce the Soviet occupation. "The Russian Federation must state clearly and unambiguously that the Soviet Union's five-decade-long occupation of the Baltics was wrong," Republican House member Jack Kingston said, The Associated Press reported.