Vladimir Putin condemns Prince Charles's 'Nazi' remarks

President Putin: "I did not hear him say that. If that is so, then of course it is unacceptable"

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Vladimir Putin has described Prince Charles's reported comparison of him with Adolf Hitler as "unacceptable".

A former Polish war refugee who met the Prince of Wales during a royal tour to Canada said he had likened some Nazi actions in Europe to those of Mr Putin.

The Russian president, who has faced criticism in the West over Russia's actions in Ukraine, said if the prince had made such comments they were "wrong" and "not royal behaviour".

Clarence House declined to comment.

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Analysis

By Bridget Kendall, BBC diplomatic correspondent

Prince Charles and Vladimir Putin

There are several reasons for President Putin to downplay this incident.

For a start he cannot get too indignant when he is not entirely sure what Prince Charles actually said.

Secondly, this is not what Mr Putin wants Russians to be talking about.

He may think it is okay for his officials to accuse the government in Kiev of being linked to 'neo Nazis' or 'fascist extremists'.

But he won't want Russians thinking about him and Hitler in the same breath, even if it is only to say in what bad taste such a comparison is.

Thirdly Mr Putin, apparently, has no interest in escalating tensions with either Britain or the rest of Europe any further.

Quite the opposite. After more than two months of deepening antagonism over Ukraine, he now appears to think it is time for a truce, and - if possible - a return to business as usual.

To that extent, the spat over Prince Charles's alleged remarks may even be quite useful - to reinforce the message that his aim now is not to look for insults but to rebuild bridges.

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'Well brought-up'

Asked about the prince's reported comments during an interview with international news agencies, the Russian president said: "In such cases, I am reminded of a good expression: If you're angry, you're wrong.

"Pass this on both to the prime minister and Prince Charles. He has visited our country many times. I did not hear him say that.

"If that is so, then of course it is unacceptable. I think that he himself understands this. He is a well-brought-up man. I am acquainted both with him and members of the royal family.

"This is not royal behaviour."

Despite criticism from the UK of Russia's recent actions, Mr Putin played down a worsening of relations between the countries.

He added: "I think that if our partners in Great Britain, just as I am, are guided by national interests rather than some other considerations, then all this will pass quite quickly and we'll continue to co-operate as we have done before".

BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall described Mr Putin's comments as a "qualified rebuke" but said the episode had generated quite a restrained response from the Kremlin and in the Russian press.

The Russian president made clear this would not "go on to become a real diplomatic problem" between the Britain and Russia, she said.

D-Day anniversary

The prince's alleged comments were made during a conversation with a former Polish war refugee during a royal tour to Canada.

Prince Charles at Hector Quay Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were on a four-day tour of Canada

He was speaking to 78-year-old Marienne Ferguson, who left Poland for Canada shortly before the Nazi occupation, at an immigration museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

They had been discussing Hitler's takeover of countries. Ms Ferguson said the prince said "something to the effect of 'it's not unlike... what Putin is doing'".

The prince and the Russian president are both due to attend a D-Day anniversary event in France next month.

The Russian embassy said the reported remarks were "outrageous", but reaction in the UK was more supportive of the prince.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he would not comment on a private conversation but added that "everyone is entitled to their private opinions".

And Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Prince Charles was "free to express himself", while Labour leader Ed Miliband said the prince "has got a point".

The UK has said Russia faces "growing political isolation" over its actions in Ukraine, including the annexation of a chunk of Ukraine's territory, the Crimean peninsula.

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