MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin is set to preside Thursday (Feb 2) over commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the bloodiest in World War II.
The high-profile celebrations in the southern city of Volgograd come as the Kremlin is drumming up support for its offensive in Ukraine, launched nearly a year ago to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, whose soldiers fought alongside Russia against Nazi Germany.
Putin is expected to travel to Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at a war memorial and speak at a concert, the Kremlin said.
The battle of Stalingrad lasted more than six months, ending with the surrender of German troops on Feb 2, 1943, after more than a million people were killed.
The Red Army’s victory marked a turning point not only for the Soviet Union, which had suffered several heavy defeats, but also for the Allied forces.
The 80th anniversary of the victory comes as Russia seeks to step up its offensive in Ukraine, bolstered by tens of thousands of reservists mobilised last autumn.
Russia has claimed recent gains near the hotspot town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine.
Moscow also recently announced the capture of the eastern town of Soledar as it seeks to wrest control of the entirety of the region of Donetsk.
Although the significance of capturing the salt-mining town is disputed, Soledar was the first major victory for Russia’s forces following a series of setbacks on the ground.
BUST OF STALIN
On Wednesday, a bust of dictator Joseph Stalin was unveiled in Volgograd.
Since Putin took power in Russia in 2000, there has been a growing chorus of Russians who take a positive view of the despot’s role in history, and historians have pointed to the creeping rehabilitation of Stalin in the country.