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Despite criticism, Putin signs bill changing date for end of WWII

Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. (The Kremlin/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Despite criticism from his human rights council, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill on marking the end of the World War II on September 3, a day later than the date recognized by most countries.

The decree, signed on April 24, appeared on the government’s online database of state legislation.

The end of World War II is internationally accepted as September 2, 1945, the day on which Japan formally surrendered.

But the legislation, which was also approved by Russia’s State Duma and Federation Council, says that September 3 must be marked as the day on which World War II ended in Russia. That was the day on which forces from the former Soviet Union defeated Japanese troops in “a decisive contribution to end” the war. Japan and Russia have never signed a peace treaty to formally end the war because of a dispute over the Kurile Islands, which Soviet troops seized at the end of WWII.

Last week, the Presidential Council for Human Rights (SPCh) issued a statement calling the move “a mistake.”

According to the SPCh, September 3 is already marked in the country as the Day of Solidarity in the Fight against Terrorism to honor hundreds of victims of the 2004 Beslan school siege.

“In our mind, decisions on marking memorial days must unite, not divide people. Moving the Day of Military Glory from September 2 to September 3 will not be understood by relatives of those killed in that monstrous terrorist act [in Beslan],” the statement said.

The Day of Solidarity in the Fight against Terrorism to commemorate Beslan victims has been marked in Russia on September 3 since 2005.

On September 1, 2004, some three dozen Chechen militants took more than 1,200 people hostage at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia.

Two days later, Russian forces stormed the school and 334 people, including 186 children, were killed in the violence.