After Russian Pressure, AP Issues Correction on 'Nazi-Soviet Alliance'

News agency agrees to Russian request after Moscow objects to description of Soviet Union and Nazi Germany as 'former allies,' clarifying that neutrality pact was not a formal alliance

A parade commemorating Victory Day over Nazi Germany in Moscow's Red Square in 2005.
AP

The Associated Press news agency on Wednesday acceded to a Russian request to delete the term "former ally" from an article mentioning the relationship between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany during World War II.

The article, which was published at the beginning of the month in media outlets worldwide, including Haaretz, was about a Ukrainian city commemorating the 75th anniversary of the destruction of its Jewish community. It included the claim that "in June 1941 Germany attacked the Soviet Union, its former ally."

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On Wednesday, ten days after the article was published, AP amended the text. The news agency explained that the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, signed by Moscow and Berlin on the eve of World War II, did not make Germany and the Soviet Union allies.

The agreement was a non-aggression pact that also included the delineation of spheres of interest between the two countries in eastern Europe, and it paved the way for the German invasion of Poland that triggered the beginning of the war. It was violated less than two years later, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.

"In 1939, despite sharp ideological differences, the two powers entered into a non-aggression pact that paved the way for them to carve up Poland and for the Soviet Union to take the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia," AP wrote. "That pact was never formally recognized as an alliance, and in 1941 Germany attacked the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, in coalition with allies including Britain, the United States and other nations, fought for four years to defeat the Nazis."  

The Russian embassy in Israel also requested that Haaretz amend the article in line with AP. In a letter, an embassy secretary said that the "former ally" phrase was "a vivid example of attempts to rewrite history, distort the truth. The USSR had never been an ally of Nazi Germany."

Russia's diplomatic action regarding the issue is reminiscent of Poland's approach in recent years to coverage of World War II. Polish diplomats frequently ask media outlets around the world, including in Israel, with demands that the phrase "German extermination camp" be added to all references to Auschwitz, as well as the phrase "occupied Poland" in articles mentioning wartime Poland.