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"Holy for Every Russian"

DW staff (sp)May 9, 2005

As Russia marks the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII in Moscow Monday, Russian Ambassador to Germany, Vladimir Kotenev told DW-WORLD about the significance of the date for his country and ties with Germany today.

Vladimir Kotenev says Germany drew the right lessons from WWIIImage: dpa - Bildarchiv

On Sunday, May 9, as Germany marked 60 years of the end of WWII with a host of events and tributes, Russian Ambassador to Germany, Vladimir Kotenev took part in a commemoration ceremony alongside German politicians at the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin's Treptower Park.

The vast memorial was built between 1946 and 1949 as a burial site for some 5000 Red Army soldiers killed during the Battle for Berlin. The Russian ambassador lay wreaths to honour the Soviet troops who fought in World War Two. Speaking before Red Army veterans he said May 8 1945 marked the victory of civilisation over barbarianism.

On Monday, May 9, all eyes will be on Moscow as world leaders fly to the Russian capital to take part in lavish ceremonies marking the end of WWII. In an e-mail interview, Vladimir Kotenev briefly told DW-WORLD his thoughts about the significant occasion.

What is the significance of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War for Russia today?

This date is, without exaggeration, holy for every Russian. The victory over fascism 60 years ago was a deed of the whole of progressive humankind, though the Soviet Union made the decisive contribution. Our country paid a very high price for the victory: 27 million dead, including 18 million civilian victims; 33,000 cities and villages were completely destroyed. Still, we weathered the war and won. May 9 is thus both an occasion for pride as well as a day of remembrance with tears in our eyes for us.

What political conclusions does Russia draw from World War II today? Do Russia's experiences of the Second World War influence the country's current foreign policy, and if so, how?

Even today the results of World War II have an important affect on the modern world order as well as the norms according to which the states -- including Russia explicitly -- orient themselves in the international arena. These norms include, firstly, the strict observation of international law; secondly, the leading role of the UN, meaning the global mechanism for the fortification of peace and security in the world which was established as a result of the war; thirdly, the decisive opposition to powers that propagate the superiority and exclusiveness of an ideology, race, nationality or religion.

Sixty years after the war, how do you view Germany today? How does the Second World War influence Russian politics, particularly in relation to Germany in 2005?

Today's Germany is a country that, according to our opinion, drew the right conclusions from the tragedy of World War II. It created mechanisms that prevented repetition of the past. And it has admitted its guilt. This Germany is our strategic partner, with whom we are connected by joint or similar positions on the fundamental international questions. Exactly for that reason we will receive Chancellor Gerhard Schröder as our friend and partner at the commemorative ceremonies on May 9 in Moscow.