‘Thank you’: Putin gets emotional at unveiling of Siege of Leningrad monument in Israel
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have unveiled a memorial to the siege of Leningrad – a major event in WWII that hit very close to home for the Russian leader.
The ‘Candle of Memory’ monument was dedicated by the leaders in Jerusalem on Thursday, on the sidelines of the Holocaust memorial conference taking place at the nearby Yad Vashem. Putin, whose mother survived the siege, was visibly touched by the ceremony.
“The monument is very good,” he told the hosts at the end of a short speech. “There were many ways to unveil it. The way you did it today… Thank you.”
Axis forces besieged Leningrad – now Saint Petersburg – for 872 days, seeking to starve out the Soviet Union’s second-largest city. Almost 650,000 civilians perished, including Putin’s elder brother Viktor, before the blockade was lifted on January 27, 1944.
Documents, diaries and newsreels cannot convey what the people of Leningrad really endured, Putin said at the ceremony.
Deprived of food, light, warmth, they continued to work in hospitals, engage in art, science and education. Sacrificing themselves, they saved a great city for future generations. The unconquered Leningrad became a true legend, and the greatness of fortitude and faith in the victory of its inhabitants, the pinnacle of human dignity.
He offered a shocking detail that he himself only discovered several days earlier, in a document: that in a single year the Leningraders donated 144 tons of blood for the troops fighting on the frontline, in defiance of their own deprivation.
Israel, like Russia, understands the significance of the lessons of WWII and refuses to allow the world to forget where tolerating chauvinism, anti-Semitism, and Russophobia can lead, the Russian president added.
Speaking at the main Holocaust remembrance event later in the day, Putin said that it was “absolutely unacceptable” for the memory of the war to become an object of daily politics.
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The duty of current and future politicians, statesmen and public figures is to protect the good name of the living and fallen heroes and civilians who were victims of the Nazis and their accomplices.
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