Putin marks 75 years since Battle of Stalingrad victory

President Vladimir Putin, center, poses for a picture alongside women dressed in historic Red Army uniforms during commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, once known as Stalingrad. (AP)
Updated 02 February 2018
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Putin marks 75 years since Battle of Stalingrad victory

VOLGOGRAD: Russia on Friday marked 75 years since the Soviet Union’s victory in the major World War II Battle of Stalingrad, extolled as a symbol of the country’s resilience at a time when President Vladimir Putin campaigns for his fourth term.
Putin flew to Volgograd, the current name of the city, which staged a military parade involving about 1,500 troops, armored vehicles and jets flying over a crowd of spectators bundled up to protect against the sub-zero temperatures.
The 1942-43 battle in the Volga river city was one of the bloodiest in history. It was a disastrous loss for Nazi Germany, and is glorified by Russia as the event that saved Europe from Adolf Hitler.
“There was no other such battle in the history of mankind,” Putin told a crowd of veterans he met at the Volgograd philharmonic for a concert commemorating the event.
“The unified resistance and readiness for self-sacrifice were truly undefeatable, incomprehensible and frightful for the enemy.”
“Defenders of Stalingrad have passed a great heritage to us: love for the Motherland, readiness to protect its interests and independence, to stand strong in the face of any test,” he said, calling on Russians to measure up to their ancestors’ example.
To mark the occasion, traffic controllers in the city of a million people, one of the poorest in Russia, were dressed in Red Army winter uniforms, complete with felt boots.
Viktoria Rybakova, a 31-year-old dancer performing in the concert, said: “In everyone, there is gratitude for our future, for the fact that we are living today.”
Soviet victory and sacrifice in the war has been increasingly upheld by Moscow in recent years to stoke patriotism, which “has practically become a state ideology,” said political analyst Konstantin Kalachev.
Moscow needs positive symbols while ties with the West are at a post-Cold War low, so dates like war victory anniversaries are used to “promote the image of a country capable of accomplishments and defeating all of its enemies,” Kalachev said.
The anniversary comes less than two months before the March 18 presidential election, and Putin, who has been making near-daily trips to meet groups of workers and students, has also met with local youth at a historical exhibit which included a “virtual quest” of the battle, his website said.
It was his second World War II-associated trip in two weeks.
On January 18 Putin took part in an event marking the 75th anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad outside Saint Petersburg.
The battle of Stalingrad began in July 1942 and lasted 200 days, with aerial bombardments that razed the city, and house-to-house fighting.
German troops of Marshal Friedrich Paulus eventually capitulated on February 2, 1943, in the first surrender by the Nazis since the war began. Paulus was captured alive and became a critic of the Nazi regime.
The city was completely rebuilt after the war and renamed Volgograd in 1961, eight years after the death of Joseph Stalin, following de-Stalinization reforms aiming to dismantle the dictator’s cult of personality.
In 2014, local lawmakers voted to rename the city back to Stalingrad on major war-related occasions six times a year.


After the hurricane comes the deluge on South Carolina coast

Updated 28 min 8 sec ago
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After the hurricane comes the deluge on South Carolina coast

  • Hurricane Florence is expected to cause record flooding downriver in Georgetown County as its final act
  • In Washington, lawmakers considered almost $1.7 billion in new money for disaster relief and recovery

GEORGETOWN: Eleven days ago, Lee Gantt was at a Hurricane Florence party in her neighborhood in Georgetown, where the story goes that some houses haven’t flooded from the Sampit River since they were built before the American Revolution.
She will spend Tuesday with sandbags, watching the nearby river rise from Florence’s heavy rains and seeing if the luck finally runs out on her home built on Front Street in 1737.
“We thought this might be coming. We just left everything up above the floor just like from the hurricane. I’m nervous. Can’t you see me shaking?” she said, stretching her arms out.
The Sampit is one of five rivers that reach the Atlantic Ocean in and near Georgetown on the South Carolina coast. And Hurricane Florence — which started with record rainfall in North Carolina — is expected to cause record flooding downriver in Georgetown County as its final act. So much water is coming that it is backing up other rivers that aren’t even flooding.
The county has recommended almost 8,000 people leave their homes — more than 10 percent of the population. Officials expect floodwaters to top several bridges, nearly cutting Georgetown County in two and leaving only one highway out during the expected crest early Thursday.
The deluge has made its way so slowly down the Lumber, Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers that the state last week released detailed maps on where it expects flooding. Upstream in Horry County, the floodwaters have invaded close to 1,000 homes near Conway as the Waccamaw River was slowly making its way to a crest a full 4 feet (1.2 meters) over its record level set just two years ago after Hurricane Matthew.
But in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper said it was time to start concentrating on recovery. “Florence is gone but the storm’s devastation is still with us,” Cooper said at a news conference.
About 400 roads across North Carolina remained closed due to the storm that’s claimed at least 46 lives since slamming into the coast Sept. 14. Crews have reopened the major highways closed in the storm. Interstate 95 was reopened to all traffic Sunday night for the first time since the floods, and Cooper said Monday that a previously closed portion of Interstate 40 had reopened sooner than expected.
Power outages and the number of people in shelters also were declining. Around 5,000 people were without power, down from a peak of about 800,000, and about 2,200 people were in shelters, compared with a high of around 20,000, the governor said.
In Washington, lawmakers considered almost $1.7 billion in new money for disaster relief and recovery. And the economic research firm Moody’s Analytics estimated that Florence has caused around $44 billion in damage and lost output, one of the 10 costliest US hurricanes. The worst disaster, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, cost $192.2 billion in today’s dollars. Last year’s Hurricane Harvey cost $133.5 billion.
Down in Georgetown County, it is a disaster nearly two weeks in the making. Georgetown County spent days under hurricane warnings before Hurricane Florence made landfall about 110 miles (175 kilometers) up the coast near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
The worst of the storm stayed well north, causing only minor flooding in Georgetown and some downed limbs.
“We had a hurricane party,” Gantt said. “Now I don’t know what to do.”
Several blocks up Front Street, the main business district was busy, but with people leaving. All along the sidewalk were piles of artwork, antiques, and boxes as owners emptied out their inventory to take to higher ground.
Tomlinson department store sent an empty truck normally used to stock stores and employees rushed to fill it with everything. The store has never flooded, but predictions call for up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water by Thursday. “The anticipation has been nerve-wracking. Though, I’m glad we had the time to do this,” said district manager Kevin Plexico.
Georgetown was positioning ambulances and firetrucks in the busy, tourist section along the beaches in case the floods cut off the US Highway 17 bridges as expected. National Guard troops were prepared to float more equipment across the river if needed. Exhausted emergency officials said they have lived nothing but Florence for more than two weeks.
“The work has been done,” Georgetown Mayor Brendon Barber said. “We just need to pray.”