Russian prosecutor asks court to recognise Nazi WW2 crimes around Moscow as genocide

FILE PHOTO: The Kremlin is seen before the lights are switched off for Earth Hour in Moscow

(Reuters) - Russian prosecutors have asked a court to recognise crimes committed by Nazi Germany in the Moscow region during World War Two as genocide and believe that around 6.4 trillion roubles ($82.3 billion) in damage was caused, they said on Thursday.

It was unclear whether the move was a prelude to a new financial compensation claim from Russia to modern Germany, with which relations have soured badly over Moscow's war in Ukraine.

The statement appeared part of a wider effort by Russia to gird its citizens for what it says is an existential war with the West, which some Russian officials have likened to the one fought by the Soviet Union against the Nazis.

The prosecutors asked a Moscow regional court "to recognise as war crimes and crimes against humanity, and as genocide against the Soviet people, the established and newly revealed crimes committed by the German fascist invaders" in the Moscow region between October 1941 and January 1942.

More than 26,000 people were killed in the region during that time, they said in a statement, with Soviet citizens subjected to torture, robbery, forced labour and expulsions. It was not clear how soon the court would rule on the request.

Some 27 million Soviet people lost their lives in what Russians call the Great Patriotic War, the memory of which is regarded as sacred by many Russians.

Eight decades later, it was Russia that invaded Ukraine in what it called a "special military operation", portrayed by President Vladimir Putin as a necessary move to "denazify" Ukraine and prevent "genocide" against Russian-speakers in its eastern Donbas region.

Ukraine and its Western allies reject that narrative as a false one to justify what they say is an illegal war of conquest. Kyiv says it is Moscow that is conducting genocide, something Russia rejects.

Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed since the start of the war, despite Russia's insistence it does not target civilians. A U.N.-mandated investigative body said in March that Russia had committed wide-ranging war crimes such as wilful killings and torture. Moscow denies its forces have committed any war crimes.

Putin often evokes feats from Russia's military history, whether in the war against Hitler or those waged by past rulers such as Peter the Great, to tap into Russians' sense of national pride.

Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, estimates it lost at least 8 million of its own people during World War Two.

($1 = 77.7205 roubles)

(This story has been corrected to insert the dropped word 'million' in paragraph 6)

(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan,; Editing by Andrew Osborn)