There was no comment from the Kremlin but popular Russian daily paper Moskovskij Komsomolets said: “The heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, risks triggering international scandals and complicating the already not unclouded relationship between Britain and Russia.”
It was reported that the heir to the throne made the comments in Halifax to Marienne Ferguson, whose family fled Poland before it was invaded by the Nazis in 1939.
Ferguson, who volunteers at an immigration museum Charles visited, said when she told Charles about her family background, he replied that Putin is doing the same thing as Hitler. Russia recently annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.
“I must say that I agree with him and am sure a lot of people do,” Ferguson said. “But I was very surprised that he made the comment as I know they (the royal family) aren’t meant to say these things.”
Charles has sometimes been accused of compromising the royal family’s political neutrality with his strong views on topics including education, architecture, and the environment.
Labour Party politician Mike Gapes tweeted that in a constitutional democracy, “monarchy should be seen and not heard”.
It is for Parlt and govt to use appropriate language to condemn illegal annexation of Crimea. Prince should stop free lance foreign policy— Mike Gapes (@MikeGapes) May 21, 2014
If you are heir to throne or monarch what you say matters. Normal "free speech " argument not relevant— Mike Gapes (@MikeGapes) May 21, 2014
Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said the prince was “free to express himself”.
“I have never been of this view that if you are a member of the royal family somehow you have to enter into some Trappist vow of silence,” Clegg told the BBC.
Charles’ office said it did not comment on private conversations, but stressed “the Prince of Wales would not seek to make a public political statement during a private conversation”.
Ferguson later told the BBC it was “just a little remark. I didn’t think it was going to make such a big uproar.”
On June 6, Charles is due to join his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and leaders of the Second World War Allies — including Putin — at events in France to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
Asked if he agreed there were parallels to be drawn between Putin and Hitler, Clegg said: “I’m not going to start comparing one period of European history to another.
“People can make different comparisons from different periods of history if they wish. All I would say is that right now I think the behaviour of Putin is not only menacing to Ukraine but it is very destabilising for Europe more generally.
“That is why we continue to say to the Russians, continue to say to Vladimir Putin: Step back, de-escalate. It’s not in Russia’s interests, let alone anybody else’s, to continue ratcheting up this tension.”
The comments are not the first time the Prince has commented on political affairs.
Letters he wrote to a number of government departments between 2004 and 2005 are the subject of a legal battle over whether their contents should be disclosed.
The Guardian has been trying to make the letters public under the Freedom of Information Act and in September 2012 the High Court ruled in its favour.
The newspaper said the battle was being fought to shed more light “on the way the heir to the throne seeks to influence government ministers even though he holds no elected position”.
Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, has attempted to block the release of the letters, claiming they undermine the principle of the heir to the throne being politically neutral.
In February, Charles spoke out about the winter flooding on the Somerset Levels, calling it a “tragedy” that “nothing happened for so long”.
In 2010 he attracted criticism for expressing strong opinions on a multimillion-pound plan for Chelsea Barracks in London, telling the prime minister of Qatar — who was chair of the developers — that his “heart sank” when he saw the design by architect Lord Rogers.