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Russia marks 75 years since Leningrad siege

January 27, 2019

More than a million people died of hunger, cold or disease or were killed during Nazi bombardments of the city. Germany's foreign minister has pledged €12 million for the siege's remaining survivors.

A ceremony to commemorate the victims of the WWII Siege of Leningrad takes place at St Petersburg's Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery, their mass grave site, ahead of the 75th anniversary of the lifting of the siege
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/TASS/A. Demianchuk

More than 2,500 soldiers and 80 military units paraded through St. Petersburg's Palace Square on Sunday as the city marked 75 years since the end of a devastating siege by Nazi German forces during World War II.

World War II-era Soviet vehicles including the iconic T-34 tank rolled through the city alongside several modern weapon systems as snow fell and temperatures hit -18 degrees Celsius (0 Fahrenheit).

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered the siege of the city, then called Leningrad, which began on September 8, 1941. At least a million residents — a third of the population — died of disease, cold, starvation or in aerial bombardments.

The Soviet army ousted Nazi forces on January 27, 1944, on its way to defeating Germany in May 1945.

Germany's pledge

Germany has pledged to donate €12 million ($13.7 million) to the siege's remaining survivors.

The donation "not only shows that we are aware of our responsibility, but it is also a signal that this must never happen again," said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Some of the money is expected to be used to modernize a hospital for Russian veterans, where some of the 108,000 war veterans and siege survivors receive treatment. The German government wants to use the rest to finance a German-Russian culture center.

"We're confident that this voluntary action will improve the quality of life of the survivors," Maas said.

Accepting the donation, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakhareva said that the donation "does not close the issue" of Germany providing individual compensation to all remaining siege survivors.

St. Petersburg native

Russian President Vladimir Putin was not present at the parade, but he is expected to visit a nearby cemetery and attend a memorial concert.

The Russian leader's older brother died during the siege and his mother almost died of starvation.

To mark the anniversary of the end of the siege, soldiers are also scheduled to conduct a gun salute on Sunday evening.

amp/rc (AFP, AP, dpa)

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