Vladimir Putin: War veterans, officers and men, colleagues and friends!
We have gathered on the eve of the great Victory Day. We have been celebrating it for more than 50 years as a symbol of our national memory and national pride. Today, many years later, we have every right to say that history has never known such wars and victories as that.
The endurance of our people was manifest even in the initial days of the war. Civilians volunteered to serve at the front because their country needed them. Three million volunteered for the militia in summer and autumn 1941. The majority of the partisans were civilians who took up arms to defend the Fatherland.
The whole world saw then that such a nation was not to be conquered. Even in December 1941, when the fighting got quite close to Moscow, our country and the Allies saw that we were destined to win. We not only routed the enemy in 1945—we became a great power and confirmed our right to be called a great nation. We won that war and firmly established peace on earth, so we shall overcome all our difficulties now.
The war is forever fresh in our memory—not merely because it is our duty to remember. We must never forget what the bellicose ambitions of politicians and nations, and their claims to rule the world can bring about. We must never forget the tragedy that results from attempts to divvy up the world. Our victory will always remain relevant, for it teaches relevant lessons.
Today, we are decorating World War II veterans. Dear soldiers and others who gave their all in the war effort, you have remained socially active to this day, sharing your knowledge and experience with the young. You are staying in the ranks, and you have cultivated a worthy generation to succeed to you.
High government awards are being conferred today on the successors to the glorious traditions of our army: the participants in the counter-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus. You have displayed the best qualities of the Russian soldier: valour, morale and indomitable loyalty to your comrades-in-arms.
I want to say a few words about the soldiers on whom the title of Hero of Russia has been conferred. Their courage and skill in battle saved dozens of Russian soldiers’ lives and destroyed large terrorist forces.
Dear friends! Hardships break the weak and steel the strong. You have many times proved this old saying. Russia will be invincible as long as you are in the ranks. I am sure of that.
Thank you for your loyalty to your duty and military oath, for your dedicated service to Russia. I congratulate you on this holiday from the bottom of my heart.
To V-E Day, dear friends!