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LJUBLJUANA, July 30. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday took part in a ceremony of unveiling a monument to Russian and Soviet soldiers who died in Slovenia during World War I and World War II. Slovene President Borut Pahor and he laid wreathes at the monument.
Guards of honor placed the Russian President's wreath by the monument and Putin went up to it, smoothed the ribbons decorated in the colors of the Russian national flag and stood in silence for about a minute.
Putin and Slovene leaders discussed an initiative of erecting this monument when he made a working visit to Slovenia in March 2011.
The monument has been designed by a group of Russian sculptors and artists. It represents a colonnade of eight-faceted stellas of different height.
At the highest point, the monument is 5 meters tall.
Crowning each stella is the bronze silhouette of a crane. Both symmetrical parts of the collonnade emblematize the victims of WW I and WW II.
The monument has an inscription saying 'To the Sons of Russia and the Soviet Union who fell during World War I and World War II in Slovenia'.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said words of gratitude to Slovenia for preserving the memory of fallen Russian soldiers.
"From the bottom of my soul and on behalf of Russia, I would like to say thank you to Slovenia and Slovenes for all you do to preserve the memory of victims brought to Victory’s altar in both First and Second World Wars," Putin said at a memorial dedication ceremony marking the centenary of the Russian Orthodox chapel’s construction on Slovenia’s Vrsic Pass.
"Thank you, Slovenia!" Putin said to the applause of the participants in the ceremony.
The Russian president noted that the chapel was built by Russian soldiers to honor the memory of their fallen comrades.
"It is well known that in just one camp for prisoners of war on this Pass about 10,000 Russian soldiers died of back-breaking toil, starvation and hardships," Putin said, adding that the ceremony had become possible owing to efforts of representatives of different confessions and of inhabitants of the town of Kranjska Gora along with "many generations of the Slovenes."
"The chapel has become a symbol of friendship between the Russians and Slovenes and a symbol of common aspiration for peace, cooperation and prosperity," he said.
The Russian Orthodox Chapel on the Vrsic Pass consecrated in the name of St. Prince Vladimir is located in Slovenia’s northwest near the town of Kranjska Gora over 1,000 meters above sea level in the Alps. Russian POWs built it during WWI to commemorate their compatriots who died there in March 1916.
In 1915 Austria’s government used POWS, mostly Russians, for building a road over the Vrsic Pass. Most of the prisoners died of starvation and hardships. In March 1916 two avalanches came down the mountain, with thousands of tons of snow ramming anti-avalanche shields and destroying bunk houses. From 200 to 500 people were buried under them.
In 1916-1917 a small wooden chapel was erected there to commemorate the killed POWs. In late 1930s soldiers’ remains were reburied in a mass grave nearby.
In 1955 the chapel was granted the status of a monument. In 2004 Slovenia’s culture ministry ordered to restore the Russian Orthodox chapel. The restoration work ended in 2005.