Russia marks 70th anniversary of Battle of Stalingrad

MOSCOW -- Russia commemorates the 70th anniversary of the epic 200-day Battle of Stalingrad on Saturday with a military parade.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the country’s former envoy to NATO, opened the anniversary parade in Volgograd with a brief speech stressing out Russia’s role in WWII.

“In Europe I’ve seen cities which were not touched by the war,” Rogozin, who is responsible for the country’s military industry, said at the aired ceremony. “But we are not like them. Our grandfathers and fathers were fighting here for every building and every street... Glory to Stalingrad!” he said.

President Vladimir Putin, who didn't show up at the parade, is expected to visit the city’s main World War II memorial, “Mamayev Kurgan”, a Tatar burial mound, meet veterans of the battle and attend evening celebrations later on Saturday.

Rogozin also said that “the military factories are reviving” in Russia to prove its present-day status of a top power. "Any enemy and potential aggressor should see this, understand this and feel this," he said.

The parade in Voldograd was modest compared to the pompous Victory Day celebrations traditionally held every year in Moscow on May 9. Hundreds of soldiers marched wearing present-day and Soviet-era uniforms across a square in downtown Volgograd wet with melted snow. They were followed by a legendary T-34 tank topped with a red flag. Some 200 veterans of the famous battle attended the parade, Rossiya 24 state television reported.

The massive pivotal battle started on July 17, 1942 and ended on February 2, 1943 with the surrender of the Axis forces. A total of around two million people were killed on both sides. The battle became one of the key victory symbols in Russia.

Volgograd was originally named Tsaritsyn until 1925, when it was renamed after Stalin for his role in leading the Red Army in the city during the Civil War. The city's name was changed to Volgograd in 1961, following the campaign against Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's "cult of personality." Rogozin has repeatedly backed the idea of renaming the city, not so far the city legislature said that Volgograd can be named “hero-city Stalingrad” on February 2 and five other milestone dates of the war.