- Russian President speaking in Volgograd
- It’s been 80 years since the Soviet victory at Stalingrad
- He compares Putin to Russia’s campaign in Ukraine
- This content was produced in Russia, where coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine is restricted by law.
VOLGOGRAD, Russia (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin raised the spirit of the Soviet army that defeated Nazi German forces at Stalingrad 80 years ago by declaring on Thursday that Russia would defeat Ukraine supposedly in the grip of a new incarnation of Nazism. .
In a fiery speech in Volgograd, known as Stalingrad until 1961, Putin blasted Germany for helping to arm Ukraine and said, not for the first time, that he was ready to take advantage of Russia’s entire arsenal, which includes nuclear weapons.
“Unfortunately, we see that the ideology of Nazism in its modern form and appearance once again directly threatens the security of our country,” Putin told an audience of army officers and members of local patriotic and youth groups.
“Again and again we have to fend off the West’s collective aggression. Incredible but true: we are again threatened by German Leopard tanks with a cross on them.”
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Russian officials have drawn parallels to the struggle against the Nazis since Russian forces entered Ukraine nearly a year ago.
Ukraine—which was part of the Soviet Union and itself suffered devastation at the hands of Hitler’s forces—dismisses these parallels as false pretexts for waging a war of imperial conquest.
Stalingrad was the bloodiest battle of World War II, when the Soviet Red Army, which cost more than a million casualties, broke the back of the German invasion forces in 1942-3.
Putin invoked what he said was the spirit of the defenders of Stalingrad to explain why he believed Russia would prevail in Ukraine, saying the World War II battle had become a symbol of the “indestructible nature of our people”.
“Those who drag 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 don’t send our tanks to their borders but we have the means to fight back, it’s not going to end up with armor, everybody should understand that.”
When Putin finished speaking, the audience gave him a standing ovation.
Putin had 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 observed a minute’s silence in honor of those who died during the battle.
Thousands of people lined the streets of Volgograd to watch the victory parade as planes flew overhead, past modern tanks and World War Two-era armored vehicles.
Some modern vehicles have the letter “V” on them, a symbol used by Russian forces in Ukraine.
Irina Zolotoreva, 61, who said her relatives fought in Stalingrad, saw what Ukraine was like.
“Our country is fighting for justice and freedom. We won in 1942 and this is an example for today’s generation. I believe we will win again now no matter what.”
The focal point of the celebration was the Mamaev Kurgan memorial complex, on a hill overlooking the Volga River and dominated by a colossal statue called The Motherland Calls – of a woman brandishing a giant sword.
The five-month battle reduced the city that bore Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s name to rubble, while claiming an estimated two million dead and wounded on both sides.
A new bust of Stalin was erected in Volgograd on Wednesday along with two others, of Soviet marshals Georgy Zhukov and Alexander Vasilevsky.
Despite Stalin’s record of leading a famine that killed millions and political repression that killed hundreds of thousands, in recent years Russian politicians and textbooks have emphasized his role as a successful wartime leader who transformed the Soviet Union into a superpower.
(Reporting by Tatyana Gomozova) Writing by Andrew Osborne Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Kevin Levy
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