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Putin, Netanyahu unveil monument to Leningrad siege defenders in Jerusalem

The monument was erected in Sacher Park located close to Israel’s Foreign Ministry buildings, Supreme Court and Knesset

JERUSALEM, January 23. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have unveiled a Memorial Candle monument in downtown Jerusalem on Thursday honoring the heroic feat of defenders and residents of besieged Leningrad in the Second World War, TASS reports.

The monument was erected in Sacher Park located close to Israel’s Foreign Ministry buildings, Supreme Court and Knesset (parliament). Two symbols are on the eight-meter stele: the St. Petersburg one is a Bronze horseman and the silhouette of the Peter and Paul Fortress in the sight of enemy guns, and the Israeli one is the Star of David with a Menorah in the center, entangled with barbed wire, symbolizing concentration camps. Another semantic element of the monument is the image of the besieged swallow — a symbol of the fortitude and hope of Leningraders. At the top of the stele is a bronze component symbolizing the flame of a candle.

A capsule is laid in the monument’s foundation containing ground from St. Petersburg’s Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery where 490,000 residents and defenders of Leningrad with tens of thousands of Jews among them are buried. The stela is created by St. Petersburg’s and Israeli architects. It was the initiative of World War II veterans, siege survivors and compatriots living in Israel to erect the monument as well as of St. Petersburg’s authorities.

Russian president's address

Speaking at the unveiling of the Memorial Candle monument to the residents and defenders of Leningrad who experienced the World War II siege, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that it was the duty of Russia and Israel to teach younger generations to be grateful to those who at the cost of their lives proved the value of peace and to remember the lessons of World War II.

"Here [in Israel] and in Russia there is the awareness of the importance of World War II lessons and of not letting the world forget what national egoism, discord and connivance with any forms of chauvinism, anti-Semitism and Russophobia lead to," Putin stated. "It is our common duty to pass on this knowledge to future generations, the great grand-children of victors, and to teach them to remember with gratitude those who earned us freedom and at the cost of the their lives proved the ever-lasting value of peace and justice."

The Russian leader cordially thanked the authorities of Israel, who put up a monument to the residents and defenders of the besieged Leningrad. He put the emphasis on the idea that this event might have been arranged differently. The way it was done by the Israelis evoked the Russian president’s special gratitude.

"The monument is very good. It will last long, hopefully for centuries. The unveiling ceremony could've been different. But the way you did it today … Many thanks," he concluded.

The siege of Leningrad (currently St. Petersburg) started on September 8, 1941 and lasted 872 days. It was broken on January 18, 1943, in the course of the Iskra strategic military operation during the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany and was completely lifted on January 27, 1944. Leningrad is the only large city in the world’s history that withstood an almost 900-day encirclement.

No more than 800,000 residents were remaining in the city by the end of the siege out of the 3 million people that had lived in Leningrad and its suburbs. According to various estimates, from 641,000 to 1 million Leningraders died as a result of hunger, bombings and artillery shelling. Almost 34,000 people were wounded, 716,000 residents were left without shelter and 1.7 million were evacuated across the Road of Life and by air in 1941-1942.