MOSCOW – Russia’s President Vladimir Putin paid tribute on Friday to fallen soldiers on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad which, ranked as one of the bloodiest campaigns in the history of warfare, helped change the course of World War II in favor of the Allied Forces.
In five months between 1942-1943 a Nazi military onslaught on the city of Stalingrad – now known as Volgograd, southern Russia – was counter-attacked by the Soviet Red Army, who encircled the Axis Forces just as winter set in, cutting off supply lines and leaving many Nazi soldier to die of starvation and hypothermia, slowly putting an end to a bloody urban battle in which some two million soldiers died, over one million from USSR ranks alone.
“The destiny of the country, of the whole world, was decided then in Stalingrad, when the indestructible character of our people arose to fight for every house, for the lives of their children and to defend Stalingrad and save the country,” Putin said at the commemoration.
The Russian leader later met with some of the veterans of the Red Army’s Stalingrad campaign, of which only some 300 survive, and laid a wreath of flowers in the Room of Military Glory at the Heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad memorial on Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd, which stands on the bank of the River Volga.
The Nazi armies reached the river Volga after some three months of offensive and occupied the majority of the city, much of which had been left in ruins by incessant fighting and airstrikes from the German Luftwaffe.
However, the Soviets began to draft reinforcements from across their territory in preparation for a huge counterattack and thousands of often ill-equipped soldiers poured towards the war-torn city.
The German supply lines, which stretched back towards Eastern Europe, were left vulnerable and exposed along the endless plains of southern Russia and the Red Army seized on this fact to surround the Nazi troops, completely cutting them off.
The Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who the city was named after, ordered his troops to hold tight, as did Adolf Hitler.
The cold Russian winter took its toll on the Nazi soldiers, with many perishing in the below freezing temperatures, and the Soviets gradually triumphed with the destruction of the Nazi’s 6th Army unit, albeit to a huge cost to their own personnel and equipment.
The Battle of Stalingrad is widely regarded a crucial turn in the tide in the Allied Forces’ eventual victory against Hitler’s forces two years later.