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Russian authorities order Stalin billboards removed


MOSCOW, June 25 (RIA Novosti) - Authorities in the central Russian city of Voronezh have ordered the removal of billboards bearing the image of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, a paper said on Thursday.

The authorities said the billboards, which were put up by the Communist Party and show Stalin wearing a military uniform next to the slogan "Victory will be ours!", violated advertising laws, Kommersant reported.

The city's chief advertising official said on Wednesday billboards should be used for advertising purposes only, including "social" advertising.

And Vadim Nechui-Veter, a lawyer specializing in advertising, told the paper: "Adverts should portray objects - goods or services, i.e. something that can be sold." He added that politicians could only be shown on billboards during election campaigns.

The Communist Party countered that in this case images of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Voronezh's mayor should also be removed from the city's streets, the paper said.

The billboards were to commemorate the start on June 22 of the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War, the term Russia and other ex-Soviet states use to call WWII. This year also marks the 130th anniversary of Stalin's birth.

The leader of Voronezh's Communists said, as quoted by Russian media, that some advertising agencies in the city had refused to take the order for the ten Stalin billboards.

"We made preparations for June 22, the start of the war, where Stalin played an important role," Sergei Rudakov said.

"We wanted to underline, with the help of the billboards, that we support reforms, but we can only move forward with the positive things we had in Stalin's time before and after the war...when the country became a great power," Rudakov said.

While Stalin's personality cult and his purges have been officially condemned in Russia, many Russians still view the dictator as a great statesman.

The exact number of those killed or imprisoned during Stalin's purges is not known, although estimates are as high as 20 million.

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