Lithuania’s Russian speakers mark end of WWII at Vilnius cemetery

DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

No incidents have been reported during the commemoration, watched by police, when people laid red carnations and tulips at the memorial for war victims, and also presented flowers to war veterans.

The majority of participants wore Georgian (also called St George’s) ribbons, a controversial Russian historic military symbol. Those wearing it said this way they showed solidarity with Russian soldiers killed during WWII as well as surviving war veterans.

Critics say, however, the Georgian ribbon now symbolizes Russia’s aggression in Ukraine as pro-Russian separatists wear them in Ukraine.

Georgian ribbons were distributed at the entry to Antakalnis Cemetery by staff of the Russian Embassy in Vilnius as well as several commemoration participants.

During the event, representatives of organizations uniting WWII veterans gave speeches, followed by whoops, and people also sang Russian military and folk songs.

Moscow-born Mikhail, who now lives in Lithuania, said his father fought in WWII. He said he feels no difference that the end of the war is marked in Europe on May 8 and Russia commemorates the fact on May 9. But he personally chooses the latter day to pay tribute to war veterans.

“Traditionally, I celebrate the day on May 9. All veterans come here and mark this day,” he told BNS.

Lithuanian leaders mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe on May 8. The end of the war used to be commemorated on May 9 in Lithuania during the Soviet times.

World War II was the deadliest war in human history, claiming lives of 50-85 million people, according to various sources. Around 100,000 people, mainly Jews, were killed in Paneriai during the war.

The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, when Germany signed the act of surrender.

After the end of WWII, Lithuanian remained occupied by the Soviet Union. 275,000 people were deported to Siberia and over 20,000 resistance participants, their family members and supporters were killed during the Soviet occupation.

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