12:11 GMT +316 July 2018
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    Lithuanian Driver Cleared of Soviet License Plate Symbolism

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    A driver in Lithuania has managed to prove his innocence after being charged with demonstrating Soviet symbolism on his car, which had a sign featuring the letters CCCP in the Latin alphabet.

    A court in Vilnius has cleared a driver of displaying Soviet symbolism, after he was charged by prosecutors for having CCCP written on his car’s license plate, in the Latin alphabet. In the Cyrillic alphabet used in Russia and other eastern European countries, these letters stand for Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik, or USSR in English.

    Fitness instructor Ruslan S. was apprehended by police after they noticed the letters on his vehicle. 

    "I don't agree that this combination of letters is a depiction of Soviet symbolism," said Ruslan in court, adding that he had been driving his car with the letters on it for five or six years, and the idea had never occurred to him.

    "I read them in Lithuanian, and I didn't even think that they could be connected with the former Soviet Union." Ruslan speculated that the letters, which are not accompanied by any kind of symbolism, might stand for Combined Community Codec Pack, a project which maintains an archive of codecs designed for use with Microsoft Windows to support different video formats.

    The logo of the Combined Community Codec Pack project, which didn’t accompany the letters on Ruslan's car, is in fact the hammer and sickle and star from the flag of the former Soviet Union, in a pun on the similarity of the acronym to the Cyrillic for USSR.

    The expression of such a logo, however, has been banned in Lithuania since 2008, after the Lithuanian parliament approved legislation banning Soviet and Nazi symbolism, making both a crime punishable by a fine of up $460.

    The law was criticized by the Russian Foreign Ministry, whose spokesman Andrey Nesterenko said the decision was "the latest attempt to rewrite history."

    "The equation of the symbolism of a state which made the decisive contribution to the victory over fascism in the Second World War, with National Socialism, can't be called anything less than the desecration of the memory of those who made such great sacrifices to save the world from fascism," said Nesterenko in 2008.

    In Estonia a similar ban was approved in 2007, while the prohibition of the use of the symbolism of Nazi Germany and the USSR at public meetings was put in place in 1991 in Latvia. There, in 2013, the ban was extended to also include the use of such symbolism at occasions of remembrance and celebration.

    On Friday Judge Yulita Dabulskita-Raizgene cleared Ruslan S. of the charge, declaring that "it should be noted that in practice, responsibility for the demonstration of Soviet symbolism occurs when such symbols are used to propagandize communist ideas," an intention which the prosecution was unable to prove. 

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