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Prince Charles has sensationally likened Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. In a withering verdict on the actions of the Russian president in Ukraine, he told a woman who lost relatives in the Nazi Holocaust: ‘And now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler.’

President Putin
President Putin

The prince’s extraordinary  intervention is certain to cause international controversy.

It is likely to be seen as a criticism of the West for failing to confront Mr Putin over his seizure of Crimea.  The annexation was the first by a major power in Europe since 1945.

Observers have compared the crisis in Ukraine with Hitler’s takeovers of Czechoslovakia and Poland.

Charles, who is scheduled to meet Mr Putin at the D-Day commemorations in France on June 6, made his well-intentioned but unguarded comment during a visit to the Canadian Museum of Immigration in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The prince is on a whistlestop tour of Canada with the Duchess of Cornwall – they have 41 engagements in just three and a half days.

On Monday, the pair paid a heartfelt tribute to Second World War veterans and their families over tea at the museum in Halifax’s docks.

He was introduced to Marienne Ferguson, a museum volunteer who fled to Canada with her Jewish family when she was just 13.

The 78-year-old was born in what is now the Polish city of Gdansk, a key flashpoint in the Second World War.

 A free city under the terms of the Versailles Treaty after the end of the Great War, it was seized by the Nazis on the first day of fighting in 1939.

Mrs Ferguson and her parents, two sisters and grandmother had managed to obtain permits to sail to Canada. But other members of her family failed to flee before the German army arrived.

Along with an estimated six hundred Jews from the city, they were sent to Nazi camps where they met their deaths.

Mrs Ferguson was given the chance to tell her incredible story to Charles as she showed him the museum’s exhibits.

At the end of the visit, and surrounded by media, Charles made his off-the-cuff comment about the situation in Ukraine.

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler

It was heard by several witnesses. Mother-of-three Mrs Ferguson said: ‘I had finished showing him the exhibit and talked with him about my own family background and how I came to Canada.

‘The prince then said “And now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler”.

‘I must say that I agree with him and am sure a lot of people do. I was very surprised that he made the comment as I know they [members of the Royal Family] aren’t meant to say these things but it was very heartfelt and honest.