By Elena Teslova
MOSCOW (AA) - Just 80 years after the end of World War II, German tanks are again threatening Russia, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, speaking at events commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad.
Speaking at a concert in the city of Volgograd (modern-day Stalingrad), Putin said that the Battle of Stalingrad was not only pivotal for the city but for the outcome of World War II.
"The Battle of Stalingrad rightfully entered history as a fundamental turning point in the Great Patriotic War,” he said, using the Russian name for the war.
He added: “The will of the entire Hitler coalition was broken.”
The battle lasted 200 days and left the city in ruins, and while the Soviet army was smaller and worse-equipped that the Nazi troops it won because it "fought for the truth," he said.
"Our moral duty, first of all to the victorious soldiers, is to cherish and preserve the memory of this exploit in its entirety, pass it on to the next generations, not to allow anyone to belittle or distort the role of the Battle of Stalingrad in the victory over Nazism, in the liberation of the whole world from this monstrous evil," he stressed.
Now Nazi ideology "again creates direct security threats" to Russia, which once again is fighting against the "collective West," he said.
German Leopard 2 tanks – now being sent to fight in Ukraine – bearing the same black crosses as their Nazi Panther predecessors will fight against Russia, said Putin.
"There is again a plan to fight Russia on Ukrainian land using Hitler’s successors, the Banderites," he said, referring to a Ukrainian nationalist group.
- Stalingrad's 'moral model'
Putin warned "those who drag European countries, including Germany, into a new war with Russia" that "a modern war with Russia will be completely different for them."
"We do not send our tanks to their borders but we have what to respond with, and this is not limited to the use of armor. Everyone must realize this," he said.
He said the stamina of the defenders of Stalingrad is a moral model for the Russian people, who carefully guard and pass down through the generations traditions and values.
"I sincerely congratulate those present here in this (concert) hall, all today's defenders of the motherland, all citizens of Russia, our compatriots abroad on the 80th anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad," he said.
The Battle of Stalingrad ended on Feb. 2, 1943 with the surrender of the Nazi army. The Soviet Union opposed the combined forces of Germany, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, and Slovakia. Almost half a million Soviet and 800,000 Wehrmacht soldiers died in the battle.