Russian President Vladimir Putin: Dear colleagues, dear friends!
This is a very special and significant occasion. Here in the Kremlin certificates will be presented conferring the honorary title of City of Military Glory: this exalted award is given to the cities of Voronezh, Luga, Polyarny, Rostov-on-Don and Tuapse.
During the ordeal of the war, their inhabitants and defenders fearlessly stood up against the invaders. By their courage and heroism they made an invaluable contribution to the defeat of the enemy and to the truly historic victory of our people. Today, on the eve of our sacred Victory Day, we honour all those who gave their lives defending the freedom and dignity of our homeland, who then raised the country from the ruins, and now by virtue of their hard work and high courage are increasing its power and greatness.
We pay tribute to the heroic deeds of the defenders and residents of Voronezh. Since its founding in 1585, it has been one of the outposts of the Russian state on its southern borders. On the walls of the city, our warriors covered themselves with imperishable glory in the battles of Nogay Horde [in the 16th century], the Polish invasion [in the 17th century] and fought off other foreign invaders.
A special page in this chronicle was written during the Great Patriotic War [1941–45]. In those years it was the only city divided in two by the front lines of the battle. The heroic defense of Voronezh lasted for 212 long days and nights, and it never surrendered to the enemy.
The wartime history of unconquerable Leningrad is inextricably bound up with the history of cities such as Luga. Its defenders fought off enemy attacks for more than a month and a half. This unparalleled feat of our soldiers, officers and volunteer militia divisions strengthened Leningrad’s defensive lines on the Neva River.
As the base of the Northern Fleet in the years of the [Great Patriotic] War, Polyarny played a key role in protecting the northern borders of the Fatherland. It was in large measure thanks to them, the ships of our northern fleet that goods from our allies in the anti-Hitler coalition that were vital for our country continued to arrive via the Northern Sea Route.
It is only just to award the honorable title of City of Military Glory to Rostov-on-Don. The Don Cossacks’ military service to the homeland has always had a special status. Cossack divisions were in the vanguard of the Russian army in the time of Peter the Great and during the Napoleonic wars. In the summer of 1942, in the space of a few days these soldiers defended the city against enemy forces that outnumbered them five to one.
It is important to note that the citizens of Rostov have a special respect for the heroic deeds of the soldiers and officers of the 56th Army. It defended the city for more than a month against the fearsome attacks of the powerful fascist tank corps. The honour guard at the eternal flame that burns in memory of the defenders of the city never sleeps.
Of course one of the legendary pages from the history of the Great Patriotic War was written by the actions of our troops near the city of Tuapse. There sailors and marines fought to the death, refusing to abandon their positions and thus preventing the enemy from breaking into the Transcaucasus by way of the Black Sea coast.
Dear friends, during these pre-holiday celebrations I want to single out the heroism of the civilians who in a difficult hour for the country showed true patriotism and courage. I want to single out all those who during the war years built up defensive lines, cared for the wounded, worked in the factories and, in the postwar period, rebuilt their native cities.
In this room are the leaders of the veterans’ organisations to whose cities the honorary title City of Military Glory has been awarded. I want to express to you and to all veterans of the Great Patriotic War our most heartfelt words of gratitude.
You are people made from tempered steel. And the courage of your victorious generation is a testimony to the indomitable character of our people, a people who selflessly loves the Fatherland, and from generation to generation honours its military traditions and feats and keeps alive the sacred memory of our homeland’s valiant defenders.
It is our duty to minister to our veterans’ every need and to provide them with all possible assistance and cooperation. In this regard, I wish to announce that I have today signed a decree on additional measures of social support for those disabled during the Great Patriotic War and for those who participated in the fighting. This year they will be given free vehicles or allocated compensation of 100,000 rubles. And next year, people with disabilities caused by radiation exposure and disabled persons who had suffered as victims of political repressions will receive cars or be similarly remunerated.
I want to emphasize that work in this direction will continue, and the government will give its utmost attention to our veterans’ social welfare. Again, it is our duty to the previous generation, to the people who gave everything to protect our homeland.
Today I have signed the Decree for Awarding the Marshal Zhukov National Award of Russia for 2008.
Its winners have been military specialists and scholars who have reached important results in the development of military science, new weapons and military equipment, and who have contributed to the modernisation of our armed forces and the strengthening of our country’s defense.
Dear friends, I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart on this great event, on Victory Day which is fast approaching. I want to congratulate all who live and work on the heroic land of these honored cities. And, of course, my warmest congratulations to all soldiers and those who worked behind the lines.
I wish you all good health, long life and success.