Russian President Vladimir Putin dedicated a monument to the heroism of the residents of Leningrad and its defenders during the German siege on the city in World War II on Thursday morning. The memorial is located in the center of Jerusalem in Sacher Park, not far from the Knesset and Supreme Court. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke at the ceremony.
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The monument, known as the Memorial Candle, is an 8.5 meter tall copper statue, with a cast bronze element representing the candle’s flame. A spiral of light will, at night, create a special effect of a burning eternal flame, according to the sponsors of the project, which include the president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Mikhael Mirilashvili, and the chairman of the board of trustees of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, Viktor Vekselberg.
Up to 1.5 million victims, including tens of thousands of Jews, are estimated to have died during the Siege of Leningrad, which lasted 900 days, between September 1941 and January 1944. Leningrad and its 3 million residents lived under siege, with food reserves for only one month. Meager supplies arrived over Lake Ladoga, but the city suffered from horrible starvation.
German forces surrounding the city prepared for a prolonged siege, with generals told to refuse to accept the city’s surrender. Hitler ordered to bomb and shell Leningrad, and although his plan was not carried out in full, by the time the siege was lifted in January 1944, about a million residents had died from starvation and other causes, according to Yad Vashem.
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Putin was born and grew up in Leningrad, which has since taken back its old name, Saint Petersburg.
A number of survivors of the siege live in Israel, and over the years a few memorials were built for them, including in Ashdod and Rishon Letzion. This is not the first memorial Putin has dedicated in Israel. In 2012, he inaugurated a monument in Netanya in honor of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany.