Putin, Peres un­veil Red Army mon­u­ment in Ne­tanya,

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By GIL SHEFLER

The tragedies and tri­umphs of the Soviet ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing World War II were re­mem­bered at the un­veil­ing of a mon­u­ment ded­i­cated to the Red Army in Ne­tanya on Mon­day.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, who be­gan a tour of the coun­try on Mon­day, and Pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres both at­tended the cer­e­mony. They spoke of the cru­cial part the USSR played in de­feat­ing Nazi Ger­many.

“This is an op­por­tu­nity to thank the Red Army,” said Peres. “Had it not de­feated the Nazi beast then it is doubt­ful we would be stand­ing here today. In World War II the Soviet Union pre­vented the world from sur­ren­der­ing.”

Putin, who spoke af­ter Peres, ex­pressed his grat­i­tude to the pres­i­dent for his speech.

“What I just heard has warmed my feel­ings to­ward the Jewish peo­ple and es­pe­cially to­ward Is­rael,” he said. “I am thank­ful for ev­ery­thing that has been done to com­mem­o­rate those who died dur­ing World War II.”

Putin said the Holo­caust was one of the “dark­est episodes of his­tory” and that Rus­sia “put an end to it” by sav­ing “the world.”

Ear­lier, Peres said he was cer­tain Rus­sia would not stand idly by in the face of threats from Iran and Syria, given its role in van­quish­ing threats to world peace such as the Nazis. Putin made no ref­er­ence to ei­ther coun­try in his re­marks.

The event was at­tended by sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple in­clud­ing about a dozen Red Army veter­ans. Zavei Kleiner, 91, a former Soviet sap­per who said he fought in both Len­ingrad and Stal­in­grad, said he was proud of the sac­ri­fices his gen­er­a­tion had made fight­ing Nazism. The be­medalled res­i­dent of Bat Yam, who moved to Is­rael af­ter the dis­in­te­gra­tion of the Soviet Union, was ac­com­pa­nied by his fam­ily.

“I have chil­dren, grand­chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren,” he said.

The Vic­tory Mon­u­ment, as it is of­fi­cially called, was a joint ini­tia­tive of Is­rael and Rus­sia im­ple­mented by a com­mit­tee with mem­bers from both coun­tries. It has two parts The first is a tun­nel­like pas­sage made of black con­crete sym­bol­iz­ing the hard­ships and sac­ri­fices of the war. It leads to the sec­ond part, an open space over­look­ing the sea where two giants wings made of white mar­ble have been erected.

More than half a mil­lion Jews fought in the Red Army in WWII against the Nazis; 120,000 were killed.

The idea for a mon­u­ment to com­mem­o­rate them orig­i­nated two years ago when Prime Min­is­ter Binyamin Ne­tanyahu pro­posed it to Putin dur­ing a visit to Moscow.

(Avi Ohayon/gpo)

PRES­I­DENT SHI­MON PERES and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin leave the site of the mon­u­ment in Ne­tanya yes­ter­day.

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