Moscow: The Moscow city government has backed off a controversial plan to place posters of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin on the streets for an upcoming World War II anniversary, reports said on Thursday.
The plan had caused an angry backlash from human rights activists and raised concern internationally as Western leaders are due to visit Moscow for May 09, when Russia marks the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.
The Stalin posters will not be placed outdoors as initially planned but will be mounted instead at indoor locations, such as war museums, Moscow Deputy Mayor Lyudmila Shvetsova told the Kommersant daily.
"The posters will be mounted in places where veterans gather most often and most actively. And given the uncertain weather, for most of them it will be more comfortable in enclosed spaces," Shvetsova said.
"Moreover, we received appeals from veterans who were worried about acts of vandalism against the posters on the streets. There were such threats."
The key supporter of the Stalin plan, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, was forced to back down under pressure from the Kremlin, the Vedomosti newspaper reported, citing two senior officials in the ruling United Russia party.
Luzhkov had approved the Stalin poster plan in February, prompting criticism from senior United Russia officials, in a rare rift within the country's leadership.
Mounting the Stalin posters would have run counter to the goals of Russia's leaders, who have recently taken steps to condemn Stalin-era crimes, a source close to the May 09 organising committee told Vedomosti.
On Wednesday, Russia's state archives published files on the 1940 massacre of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn Forest -- one of the most notorious events of the Stalin era -- on the orders of President Dmitry Medvedev.
Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union for nearly three decades until his death in 1953, is a deeply controversial figure whose brutal Gulag prison camps and policies of forced collectivisation killed millions of people.
But many Russians admire Stalin for his role in leading the Soviet Union to victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
First Published: Thursday, April 29, 2010, 15:21