President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Veterans, Mr Lukashenko, guests,
I congratulate the veterans who fought on the frontlines and served on the home front, and the entire fraternal Belarusian people on this occasion, the 70th anniversary of the liberation from Nazi occupation, and on this national holiday, Independence Day.
On June 22, 1941, Belarus received the first attack of Hitler’s armies. It lived through a ruthless occupation and experienced the full horrors of war and the Nazis’ cruelty. We remember the tragedy of Khatyn, which the President recalled just now, and the fate of other Belarusian villages that were razed, with all their inhabitants burned alive. But the Belarusian people stood firm and showed a true example of self-sacrifice and sincere love for their homeland. We bow our heads before the Belarusian people’s courage and strength of will. More than 1.3 million people from Belarus fought on the frontlines in the Great Patriotic War and more than 400 people became Heroes of the Soviet Union.
“Belarus received the first attack of Hitler’s armies. It lived through a ruthless occupation and experienced the full horrors of war and the Nazis’ cruelty. But the Belarusian people stood firm and showed a true example of self-sacrifice and sincere love for their homeland. We bow our heads before the Belarusian people’s courage and strength of will.”
From young to old, anyone who could hold a weapon in their hands – old people, children, women – fought in the rear. Belarus’ partisan movement, in which people of different ethnic groups fought together, became a symbol of the ordinary people’s heroism. 140,000 partisans and underground fighters were awarded orders and medals of the Soviet Union.
In these days, 70 years ago, our troops, together with partisan detachments, carried out the legendary Bagration offensive. This victorious battle was one of the biggest in World War II. It showed the talent of the commanders and the courage of the soldiers and officers. The whole world saw that there was no way of beating an army like ours. The Nazis were forever chased from Belarus and the troops went on to liberate Poland and other European countries.
The decisive offensive on the Belarusian front diverted dozens of Nazi divisions from the west and thus facilitated the success of the allied forces’ operation in Normandy. It brought victory in the Great Patriotic War closer, the common victory for which the Soviet Union’s peoples paid a tremendous price. It is for this reason that we take such pains to preserve the memory of this war, and it is for this reason that it is so important to preserve the memory of the courage, selfless dedication and endurance of those who fought Nazism.
As Mr Lukashenko mentioned, the decision to start putting together the collection that would become the Belarusian Museum of the Great Patriotic War was taken back in June 1942. Today, the museum’s new building is opening in the hero city of Minsk. It is a true memorial to the immortal feats of our forebears and compatriots, to all who fought Nazism. The museum’s exhibits will help greatly to educate young people, who should take as their examples these true heroes, who defended their homeland and fought for their freedom and independence. People such as you, our dear veterans, will serve as examples for them. It is absolutely vital to instil in young people a categorical rejection of the very idea of Nazism, so that never again does it rear its head anywhere.
“Our fathers and grandfathers won because they stood together, and this will continue to be the case. Russia and Belarus will further strengthen their good-neighbourly ties within the Union State.”
Veterans, friends, next year we will celebrate together the 70th anniversary of the great victory over Nazism. As the country presiding over the CIS, Belarus is making a big contribution to preparing the celebratory events that will take place throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States. We will continue close coordination of our plans for these celebrations with our Belarusian friends.
Our fathers and grandfathers won because they stood together, and this will continue to be the case. Russia and Belarus will further strengthen their good-neighbourly ties within the Union State. The Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union, which will come into effect on January 1, 2015, also opens up big new opportunities for deepening our relations.
I am sure that our countries’ stability and prosperity and the unity of the Russian and Belarusian peoples are what the heroes of the Great Patriotic War fought for and dreamed of.
May these glorious traditions of fraternity, mutual aid and unity continue to serve as the solid foundation for developing Russian-Belarusian ties and our countries’ union and alliance.
I wish all veterans good health, long life and happiness. Thank you very much.
Once more, I congratulate you and the entire Belarusian people on this great holiday.