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Prince Charles is drawing criticism for reportedly comparing the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine to those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Charles is currently visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia, where a woman reportedly overheard him make the comment. Marienne Ferguson, a Canadian Museum of Immigration volunteer who fled Poland during World War II, told the Daily Mail in an offhand comment, “And now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler.”
“I had finished showing him the exhibit and talked with him about my own family background and how I came to Canada,” Ferguson told the paper. “The prince then said ‘And now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler.’”
The 78-year-old woman told the Daily Mail that she was surprised to hear a member of the Royal Family make such a statement, even if she and others agree with him.
“I told the prince that while my family and I were lucky to get a permit to travel, many of my other relatives had permits but were unable to get out before war broke out on September 1. They were sent to the concentration camps and died,” she recalled.
Later, the BBC caught up with Ferguson, who said she didn’t expect the comments to get such attention. It was “just a little remark. I didn't think it was going to make such a big uproar,” she told the BBC.
A Clarence House spokesman said that they will not comment on the private conversation. CNN said that it could not verify if the conversation actually happened. Putin’s office has also not commented.
Coincidentally, Prince Charles, who is first in line to the British throne, and Putin will be attending the same D-Day memorial ceremony in France next month. Clarence House said that there were no plans for the two to have a meeting, even before the comments went public.
Some have taken to Twitter to condemn Charles’ comments, including member of Parliament Mike Gapes, who tweeted:
In constitutional monarchy policy and diplomacy should be conducted by parliament and government. Monarchy should be seen and not heard.
— Mike Gapes MP (@MikeGapes) May 20, 2014
However, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg did say that the prince has the right to express himself. “I have never been of this view that if you are a member of the Royal Family somehow you have to enter into some Trappist vow of silence,” he told BBC Breakfast.