Controversy after Vladimir Putin compares Lenin to holy relics

Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin came under criticism from rights activists after he compared Vladimir Lenin's embalmed corpse to the holy relics of Christian saints.

In a Monday speech before a group of supporters, Putin spoke against the idea of removing Lenin's mausoleum from Red Square in Moscow where his corpse is housed.

"Many say the mausoleum contradicts traditions. What contradicts traditions? Go to the Kiev Caves Monastery (in Ukraine) or look at (Russia's) Pskov monastery or Mount Athos (in Greece). There are relics of saints there. You can see everything there," Putin said.

The remarks provoked sharp criticism from rights activists and NGOs such as Memorial, which works to preserve the memory of the victims of Soviet repressions.

"It is an absolutely baseless comparison," said Memorial board member Yan Rachinsky yesterday.

"If someone needs these relics, one could build a special 'communist church' somewhere," he said.

Debates on whether or not to remove Lenin's body from the mausoleum constructed in Red Square in 1924 started after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov quashed any suggestion that Lenin's remains should be interred.

"The issue of Lenin's inhumation is not currently on the agenda," he told the official Itar-Tass news agency.

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