Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said he still intends to decorate the capital with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's portraits during the celebrations of victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two despite a clear signal from the Kremlin, the Russian Izvestia daily reported on Wednesday.
"When they say the Moscow mayor wants to decorate the entire city with Stalin's portraits - this is a lie. In fact, from the 2,000 different types of decorations, only ten will depict Stalin among other marshals of [WWII] Victory. Two thousand [others] and ten [of Stalin]. This is how it will be," the paper quoted Luzhkov as saying.
The mayor's plans to set up billboards commemorating Stalin's role in WWII in the run-up to this year's 65th Victory Day Parade on May 9 were announced in February and provoked strong controversy in Russian society.
Human rights activists protested against the decision, saying they would stage demonstrations if the posters were put up.
In a clear bid to ease tensions over Stalin's images, a source in the organizing committee of the celebrations, led by President Dmitry Medvedev, has said there would be no such decorations in Moscow on Victory Day, marked as one of the biggest national holidays. Luzhkov's latest statement will surely provoke new heated debates.
Defending his decision, Luzhkov said though he was not a Stalin apologist, the billboards reflected "objective history."
Stalin has not been present in Moscow's Victory Day decorations for decades, but his name still provokes strong arguments in Russia.
Between the 1930s and 1950s millions of people were executed on false charges of espionage, sabotage and anti-Soviet propaganda or died of starvation, disease or exposure in labor camps.
According to official statistics, 52 million people were convicted on political charges during Stalin's regime.
However, many people believe it was Stalin's leadership that pulled the Soviet Union through its darkest hour and freed Europe from the tyranny of Nazism.
MOSCOW, April 7 (RIA Novosti)