UPDATE: Court Rules for Russian Newspaper in Stalin Libel Suit

By: DAVID NOWAK A Russian court has ruled against Josef Stalin's grandson in a libel suit over a newspaper article that said the Soviet dictator sent thousands of people to their deaths.

The Moscow court on Tuesday rejected Yevgeny Dzhugashvili's claims that Novaya Gazeta defamed Stalin in an April article that referred to the Soviet leader as a "bloodthirsty cannibal."

A ruling against Novaya Gazeta would have been seen as an exoneration of Stalin. And it would have been a major setback to beleaguered liberals who say Russia must acknowledge its bloody past and who accuse the Kremlin of whitewashing history.

Stalin's grandson, who did not attend the trial, had demanded a public apology and monetary damages.

He has five days to appeal.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

MOSCOW (AP) ? A Russian newspaper defended itself in a Moscow court on Tuesday against charges that it had libeled Josef Stalin by reporting that the Soviet dictator had sent thousands to their deaths.

Stalin's grandson, Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, has sued the Novaya Gazeta newspaper for writing that Stalin personally signed execution orders for thousands of Soviet and foreign citizens. The April 22 article was based on recently declassified Soviet documents.

The grandson, who was not present at Tuesday's hearing, has demanded compensation from the newspaper and the author of the article, Anatoly Yablokov.

The defense presented evidence in court of Stalin's repressions, including Russian school textbooks, said Oleg Khlebnikov, a Novaya Gazeta deputy editor.

Dzhugashvili's lawyer, Yury Mukhin, said the judge was wrong to allow such evidence.

"How can a textbook prove that Stalin was a tyrant?" Mukhin told journalists during a break. Few reporters were allowed inside the small courtroom.

Recent years have seen an escalation in efforts to rehabilitate the dictator who, according to the rights group Memorial, ordered the deaths of at least 724,000 citizens during a series of purges that peaked in the late 1930s.

Ten elderly Stalin supporters gathered outside the courtroom Tuesday holding photographs of the dictator.

"I've come here to defend Stalin, to defend him against these terrible accusations," said Vera Atomanova, 77. "He was a great man. He united the country and created a great superpower."

She and the others were reading the hardline communist newspaper Molniya, whose main headline said: "The myth of Stalinist repressions."

Stalin is often revered in Russia for leading the Soviet Union to victory in World War II.

Earlier this year, he was voted the third-greatest Russian of all time in a television poll. A plaque bearing Stalin's name that decades ago vanished from the vestibule of a Moscow metro station was recently restored. And former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev last year denounced efforts to portray Stalin as a "brilliant manager" rather than a murderous autocrat.


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