Putin invokes Stalingrad to predict victory
- Russian President speaks in Volgograd
- 80 years have passed since the Soviet victory at Stalingrad
- Putin draws a parallel with the Russian campaign in Ukraine
- This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.
VOLGOGRAD, Russia, Feb 2 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin evoked the spirit of the Soviet military that defeated Nazi German forces at Stalingrad 80 years ago to say on Thursday that Russia would defeat a so-called Ukraine in the grip of a new incarnation of Nazism.
In a fiery speech in Volgograd, known as Stalingrad until 1961, Putin slammed Germany for helping to arm Ukraine and said, not for the first time, he was ready to tap into the entire Russian arsenal, which includes nuclear weapons.
“Unfortunately, we see that the ideology of Nazism in its modern form and manifestation again directly threatens the security of our country,” Putin told an audience of army officers and members of patriotic groups, and local youth.
“Again and again we have to repel the aggression of the collective West. It is unbelievable but it is a fact: we are again threatened by German Leopard tanks with crosses on them.”
See 2 more stories
Russian officials have drawn parallels with the fight against the Nazis since Russian forces entered Ukraine nearly a year ago.
Ukraine – which was part of the Soviet Union and which itself suffered devastation at the hands of Hitler’s forces – dismisses these parallels as false pretenses for a war of imperial conquest.
Stalingrad was the bloodiest battle of World War II, when the Soviet Red Army, at the cost of over a million casualties, broke the back of the invading German forces in 1942-43.
Putin invoked what he called the spirit of Stalingrad defenders 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 the European countries, including Germany, into a new war with Russia, and … expect to win a victory over Russia on the battlefield, apparently do not understand that a war modern day with Russia will be quite different for them,” he added.
“We don’t send our tanks to their borders but we have the means to react, and it won’t stop with the use of armored vehicles, everyone has to understand that.”
As Putin finished speaking, the audience gave him a standing ovation.
Putin had earlier laid flowers at the grave of the Soviet marshal who oversaw Stalingrad’s defense and visited the city’s main memorial complex, where he observed a minute’s silence in honor of those who died in the battle.
Thousands of people lined the streets of Volgograd to watch a victory parade as planes flew overhead and modern and World War II tanks and armored vehicles passed by.
Some of the modern vehicles bore the letter “V”, a symbol used by Russian forces in Ukraine.
Irina Zolotoreva, a 61-year-old woman who said her relatives fought in Stalingrad, drew a parallel with Ukraine.
“Our country is fighting for justice, for freedom. We won in 1942 and that is an example for today’s generation. I think we will win again now no matter what.”
The focal point of the commemorations was the Mamayev Kurgan memorial complex, on a hill overlooking the Volga dominated by a towering statue called The Motherland Calls – of a woman wielding a giant sword.
The five-month battle reduced to rubble the city that bore the name of Soviet leader Josef Stalin while leaving an estimated 2 million dead and injured on both sides.
A new bust of Stalin was erected Wednesday in Volgograd along with two others, Soviet Marshals Georgy Zhukov and Alexander Vasilyevsky.
Despite Stalin’s presidency record of a famine that killed millions and political repression that killed hundreds of thousands, Russian politicians and textbooks in recent years have emphasized his role wartime leader that made the Soviet Union a superpower.
Reporting by Tatiana Gomozova Writing by Andrew Osborn Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Kevin Liffey
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.