President Vladimir Putin:
We already met at the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I would like once again to congratulate you on the eve of this wonderful holiday that we hold so dear – Victory Day. Representatives of veterans’ organisations from Russia, the CIS, the Baltic states and the anti-fascist coalition countries have gathered here in Moscow and it gives me pleasure to welcome you all to the Russian capital.
Tomorrow we will celebrate an event that contains both eternal joy and sorrow, an event that, 56 years ago, united the peoples of this world and that remains a great symbol of friendship to this day. Many more meetings will take place over these days. Veterans will no doubt raise their glasses over these days, recall their glorious victories and remember their fallen comrades.
Everywhere, here in Russia and in all the countries of this world, we will be paying tribute to the veterans. You know better than anyone at what price victory was achieved. More than 60 countries were drawn into the inferno of World War II and 110 million people put on military uniforms and took up arms. The war left 50 million dead. This is an enormous figure and an enormous sorrow. Humanity went through enough sorrow and misfortune over those years to last several generations.
The war was not just our common misfortune, however, but also, ultimately, our common victory, a victory that united many. We were able to achieve victory in the war only by joining forces. Military cooperation began in 1941. The Arctic convoys brought needed military and civilian supplies to the ports of Murmansk and Severodvinsk. Together with Soviet sailors, the sailors of anti-fascist coalition countries heroically fought off the enemy’s attacks. And certainly, the opening of the second front in Europe in June 1944 also made an immense contribution to victory.
We remember everything: the achievements of the peoples of Yugoslavia who bravely fought the occupying forces for four years, the uprisings in Bulgaria, Warsaw and Prague, the German anti-fascists, the members of the French Resistance and those who fought in the war of liberation in Greece. The common fight of the anti-fascist coalition countries brought Victory Day closer. Fascism was defeated and our soldier-liberators entered Berlin together with the allies. The peoples who united to fight this terrible threat proved that they could defeat even as powerful an enemy as fascism.
I want to say again that no one knows as well as the Second World War veterans just what part this country played in the victory we achieved. The fate of the world was decided at that time on the battlefields of the Great Patriotic War. This has long since become a fact of world history. Here today, in the presence of people who know about war not by hearsay but through their own experience, I want to stress again that we do not divide victory into ours and theirs. We will always remember what price was paid for victory. Today, after all, we speak not only on behalf of the living but also, as I said at the beginning, we remember those who lost their lives, and in this country their number comes to 27 million.
This is why we are doing so much today to preserve peace in the world. This is why we still must learn the lessons of that terrible war. These lessons are clear. First, it was fascism that unleashed war on the world. The world stopped the march of fascism and destroyed its power. But, unfortunately, the fascist swastika and Nazi ideas still roam the world and any encouragement they find creates fertile soil for fascism to re-emerge. One of the lessons of modern world history, our main common lesson, is not to let it rear its head again even in locally-contained form.
I also want to note that fascism is only one manifestation of extreme political and national radicalism. The second lesson of World War II is that claims to world domination were and still are the cause of many wars. These sorts of claims still linger on today and this is very dangerous. Therefore, we have supported and will continue to support the principles of equality and mutual respect, trust and cooperation. Only on this basis can we resolve the global problems we face, the challenges confronting the entire international community.
The third lesson is the need for an effective collective security system. The countries of Europe and North America were unable to unite at the end of the 1930s and prevent Hitler’s aggression and they paid a terrible price for this. Today we must unite in the fight against the international threats that really do exist, and we must act together to ward off dangers to our common future.
Among the clear dangers the world faces is terrorism, above all when it is clothed in nationalism and religious extremism. Terrorism can undermine the stability of entire states, as we are seeing now in the Balkans. It can hold huge numbers of people in fear. We can counteract terrorism only by acting through a reliable legal and organisational basis. Russia places immense importance on this factor in its international policy. Taking this opportunity, I have given you a brief overview of our position regarding security issues and building international relations in this area.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate you most sincerely on this celebration of victory. I want to wish you health and happiness and express the hope that Russia’s veterans and their colleagues from countries far and near will make a noticeable contribution to building peace and educating the young generation in the spirit of cooperation, friendship and mutual respect. I wish you health, a happy holiday, and I bow low before you for our common victory.