- The Russian president speaks in Volgograd
- 80 years have passed since the Soviet victory at Stalingrad
- Putin parallels Russia’s campaign in Ukraine
- This content was produced in Russia, where legislation restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.
VOLKOGRAD, Russia, Feb 2 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Thursday announced the spirit of the Soviet army that defeated Nazi German forces at Stalingrad 80 years ago that Russia would defeat Ukraine in the grip of a new incarnation of Nazism. .
In a speech in Volgograd, known as Stalingrad until 1961, Putin slammed Germany for helping to arm Ukraine and, not for the first time, said he was ready to draw on Russia’s entire arsenal, including nuclear weapons.
“Unfortunately, we see that the ideology of Nazism in its modern form and expression is again directly threatening the security of our country,” Putin told an audience of military officers and local patriotic and youth groups.
“Again and again we must defeat the aggression of the collective West. It is unbelievable, but it is a fact: we are threatened again with crosses on German Panther tanks.”
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Russian officials have been drawing parallels with the anti-Nazi struggle since Russian forces entered Ukraine nearly a year ago.
Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union, suffered disaster at the hands of Hitler’s forces – dismissing those parallels as bogus pretexts for a war of imperial conquest.
Stalingrad was the bloodiest battle of World War II, when the Soviet Red Army broke the rear of the German invasion forces in 1942-3, with over 1 million casualties.
Putin, who said World War II had become a symbol of “our immortality,” invoked what he said was the spirit of Stalingrad’s defenders to explain why he thought Russia would prevail in Ukraine.
“Those who drag the European countries, including Germany, into a new war with Russia, and … expect victory over Russia on the battlefield, apparently do not understand that a modern war with Russia will be completely different for them. ” He added.
“We will not send our tanks to their borders, but we have ways to respond, and it will not end with the use of armored vehicles, and everyone must understand that.”
When Putin finished speaking, the audience gave him a standing ovation.
Putin earlier laid flowers at the grave of the Soviet marshal who oversaw the defense of Stalingrad and visited the city’s main memorial complex, where he held a minute’s silence in honor of those who died during the war.
Thousands of people lined the streets of Volgograd to watch the victory parade.
Some modern vehicles are painted with the letter ‘V’, a symbol used by Russian forces in Ukraine.
Irina Solotoreva, 61, who said her relatives fought in Stalingrad, saw parallels with Ukraine.
“Our country is fighting for justice and freedom. We won in 1942 and that is an example for today’s generation. I think we will win again no matter what happens now.”
The focal point of the commemorations is the Mamaev Kurgan Memorial Complex, a hill overlooking the Volga River, dominated by a hulking statue of The Motherland Calls – a woman standing brandishing a giant sword.
The five-month battle reduced the city named after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to rubble, while an estimated 2 million people were killed and wounded on both sides.
A new bust of Stalin with Marshals of the Soviets Georgy Zhukov and Alexander Vasilievsky was unveiled in Volgograd on Wednesday.
Despite Stalin’s record of presiding over famines that killed millions and political repression that killed hundreds of thousands, Russian politicians and school textbooks in recent years have emphasized his role as a successful wartime leader who turned the Soviet Union into a superpower.
Reporting by Tatiana Gomosova Writing by Andrew Osborne Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Kevin Liffey
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