Putin marks Stalingrad victory as tribute to Russian grit

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, lays flowers at the monument to Motherland during ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, once known as Stalingrad, Russia, Friday, Feb. 2, 20

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, lays flowers at the monument to Motherland during ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, once known as Stalingrad, Russia, Friday, Feb. 2, 20

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin attended commemorations Friday marking the 75th anniversary of the Nazi surrender that ended the battle of Stalingrad, lauding the Red Army's victory as a shining example of Russia's perseverance amid adversity.

Putin on Friday visited Volgograd, the current name of the city in southern Russia that stretches along the western bank of the Volga River.

The city was renamed in 1961 as part of the Soviet Union's rejection of former dictator Joseph Stalin's personality cult. But the name Stalingrad remains inextricably linked to the historic battle that perhaps turned the tide of World War II more than any other.

The five months of fighting in Stalingrad between August 1942 and February 1943 is regarded as the bloodiest battle in history. The death toll for soldiers and civilians is estimated to have been an astonishing 2 million. Most of the city was reduced to rubble before Nazi forces surrendered on Feb. 2, 1943.

"Such degree of resistance, self-sacrifice and spiritual power were invincible, incomprehensible and terrifying for the enemy," Putin said.

Putin hailed the Stalingrad victory as a reflection of the "courage of our soldiers and the talent of their commanders."

"The defenders of Stalingrad ... have left us a great heritage: love for the Motherland, the readiness to defend its interests and independence and to show resistance while facing any trials," he said.

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