Prince Charles Compares Putin to Hitler

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Stooping to the plebeian level of a cable news pundit, Britain's Prince Charles has compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to German madman Adolf Hitler, according to reports.

During a royal tour of Canada, Charles told a Polish Holocaust survivor that, regarding the annexation of Crimea, "Putin is doing just about the same thing as Hitler," Britain's Daily Mail reported.

The remarks have made big headlines in England, where the government has been highly critical of how Moscow is playing the Ukraine crisis.

The Mail said the prince's comments were made during a conversation with Marienne Ferguson, 78, who lost relatives during Hitler's reign of terror, when they spoke at a museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she works as a volunteer.

"I had finished showing him the exhibit and talked with him about my own family background and how I came to Canada," she told the paper.

"The prince then said, 'And now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler.' I was very surprised that he made the comment as I know they (the royals) aren't meant to say these things, but it was very heartfelt and honest."

"I must say that I agree with him and am sure a lot of people do," Ferguson was quoted as saying.

Clarence House, the office that speaks for the Prince of Wales, told NBC News, "We don't comment on private conversations but we would like to stress that the Prince of Wales would not seek to make a public political statement during a private conversation."

The unrecognized pro-Russian government of Crimea conducted an unauthorized referendum March 16 in which allegedly 96 percent of residents voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

Moscow has claimed that it isn't directing the moves of separatists in Ukraine, but the global community has been skeptical.

Several other high-profile figures have made a link between Russian aspirations Ukraine and the Nazi aggression leading to World War II.

In March, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to clarify remarks suggesting that Putin's justification for his incursion into Crimea to protect ethnic Russians was reminiscent of claims made by Hitler over foreign territories.

"Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the '30s," she said, later explaining she hadn't meant to make a comparison but saiying lessons could be learned from history. Germany's conservative finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, also denied making similar remarks a few weeks later.

Russia dismisses such comparisons and says Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine are under threat from a Kiev government in the sway of militant Ukrainian nationalists.

Britain's Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, are greeted Monday by Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Pictou, Nova Scotia Charles and Camilla are on a four-day visit to Canada that began in Halifax and includes stops in Pictou and the Prince Edward Island towns of Charlottetown, Bonshaw and Cornwall and concludes in Winnipeg.MARK BLINCH / Reuters

Dimitry Linnik, London bureau vhief for the Voice of Russia news site, called the comment ignorant.

"If, indeed, anyone made that statement, it would be evidence of ignorance, bad tone — diplomatically, the reaction would be negative in the extreme," Linnik told NBC News' partner ITN.

Prime Minister David Cameron's office said it wouldn't be commenting, but Liberal Democratic Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Charles, who has also taken on a greater share of the monarch's official duties as the 88-year-old queen slowly scales back her workload, shouldn't be criticized for private remarks.

"I have no problem at all that the royal family might have views, strong views," said Clegg. "It doesn't help to speculate about what may have been said in a conversation intended to be private.'

Meanwhile, Labor Party lawmaker Mike Gapes tweeted that in a constitutional democracy, "monarchy should be seen and not heard."

On June 6, Charles is due to join his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and leaders of the World War II Allies — including Putin — at events in France to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

— with The Associated Press