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THE immense contribution of the Soviet Red Army was remembered today as muted services were held to mark Victory in Europe Day, when the Nazi war machine surrendered in the German capital, Berlin.
Parades and other events were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic with many European cities still on lockdown due to emergency measures.
Wreaths were laid by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Berlin Soviet war memorial as Germany celebrated VE Day with a public holiday for the first time in the country’s history.
Long a shameful reminder of Germany’s dark history, this year events including street parties, parades and exhibitions had been planned “to send an unmistakable message against fascism and war and for peace,” and many events took place online instead.
The Berlin-based Kulturprojekte said that the digital campaign was important due to a spike in far-right activities, and as a reminder to Berliners “that it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure that history does not repeat itself.”
Red Army tanks rolled into Berlin 75 years ago in the final phase of the second world war. Soviet troops mounted the final ground assault on the German capital, which started on April 16.
They were the only forces to enter Berlin, led by Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov. The US refused to commit troops to the final assault, offering vital air support instead.
Hitler committed suicide on April 30 and the Soviet victory was sealed soon after, with Germany signing an unconditional surrender to Marshal Zhukov.
Russian Communist Party General Secretary Gennady Zyuganov paid tribute to the Red Army, as people marked the defeat of fascism and the liberation of Europe by hanging something red from their windows.
He said: "Twenty-seven million Soviet citizens lost their lives in the war. Of the 13 million soldiers lost by Germany, 10 million fought against the USSR. Despite the defeats of the first weeks of the war, the Red Army and the entire Soviet people defeated Hitler’s blitzkrieg.
“Unlike our European allies, our land did not become a place of triumphal strutting for the Wehrmacht troops. Each metre was only ceded to the enemy at a bloody cost. The invaders never managed to take Moscow, conquer Leningrad, capture Stalingrad, or move their hordes beyond the Volga.”
Communist Party of Ukraine general secretary Petro Symonenko praised the courage of the soldiers of the Red Army who fought against fascism and “broke the back of the Nazi beast.”
In the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR), the capital has been temporarily renamed Stalino in honour of the Soviet leader’s role in defeating fascism.
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