MOSCOW (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart unveiled a monument on Tuesday in honor of fallen Red Army soldiers who fought in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko traveled to the village of Khoroshevo, just outside Rzhev, about 200 kilometers northwest of Moscow for a dismal ceremony in which goose-stepping troops laid wreaths in front of the towering figure of a soldier.
The Battle of Rzhev, in which the Red Army launched a series of offensives in 1942-1943 to expel the Defense Forces from its positions near Moscow, resulted in massive Soviet losses as a result of persistent, ill-prepared attacks on well-fortified Nazis. positions.
Putin said 1.3 million Red Army soldiers were killed, wounded in battle, or missing in action during the fighting around Rzhev that lasted more than a year.
The battle, which came to be known as ‘the Rzhev meat grinder’, has been largely neglected by Soviet propaganda and official historians due to the massive losses of the Red Army and the goons of the generals.
“It is impossible to think without pain about the huge losses the Red Army has suffered,” Putin said. He added that “not long ago, official history did not consider it appropriate to talk too much about the fighting at Rzhev.”
The Russian President, who has a deeply emotional attitude towards World War II history, said that “we will always remember the high price paid by the Soviet people for the victory”.
The Soviet Union lost as many as 27 million people in what it called the Great Patriotic War. Celebrated on May 9, Victory Day is the country’s most important secular holiday.
The Red Square parade, which was postponed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, took place on June 24 and marked the day in 1945 when the first parade was held in Red Square following the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Putin’s insistence on holding the ceremony reflected not only his desire to showcase Russia’s military might, but also to stimulate patriotic sentiments for a constitutional vote that would allow him to remain in office until 2036.
The national plebiscite on the amendments that would reset the clock on Putin’s tenure and allow him to serve two more years will end Wednesday after a week of early voting.
Speaking to the nation with the towering war memorial on television, Putin called on the heroism of Red Army soldiers to urge people to vote and described the voice as a milestone in the history of the nation .
“We continue on that unstoppable, millennium-long journey,” Putin said. “And we know that when we are together, we can tackle the most difficult tasks, even in a critical situation.”
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