Vladimir Putin: I have been given the great honour today of awarding you the medal “60 years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War”. This is a symbolic award which is designed once more to stress your personal contribution, the contribution of your generation to the battle and victory over fascism.
We are here together in a land which best of all knows the tragedy that mankind faced during the Second World War. But our people, the people of the multi-ethnic Soviet Union, the people of Russia, also knows this at first hand. And you were the people who broke the back of fascism and ensured victory.
We are in a city which has preserved its grandeur and beauty. Even a swift glance from out of the car window shows that this is a magnificent European city. And in fact, it was preserved thanks to the courage and blood of Soviet soldiers, because Soviet troops stormed it without the support of heavy artillery or aviation – in order to save the city.
Not only did you save this city – you saved thousands of lives of people in Europe, and here in Auschwitz. One of our veterans awarded today told me how it happened, how difficult it was to reach Auschwitz, while some people today may have the impression that Soviet troops got here quite easily, opened the gates and said hello. It was not like this at all. Life was completely different. At every kilometre, at every metre our troops faced fierce resistance from the enemy, and lost their comrades – they lost them to save the lives of other people. And thousands of Russians and Ukrainians, thousands of Jews who were saved by you, I am simply certain, will never forget this! Just as we, the generations that came after you, will not forget.
I take a deep bow to you, and thank you very much.
I congratulate you!