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Russian President Sends Controversial New Year's Greetings


Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent new year's greetings to 80-year old Vassily Kononov, a Soviet partisan in World War II who was convicted in Latvia of war crimes.

Mr. Putin said heroes should not be slandered.

Mr. Kononov was convicted last year of murdering Latvian civilians in 1944 in a trial that angered many Russians, who view him as a legitimate war hero.

Mr. Putin's letter saluted Mr. Kononov's contribution to the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, noting that 2005 will mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

Relations between Russia and its Baltic neighbor have been strained in recent years, in part because Latvia decided to join the NATO alliance.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.

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