The Saur-Mogila memorial to Soviet soldiers who defeated the Nazis was damaged in 2014 fighting
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday praised the newly completed restoration of Saur-Mogila, a memorial to the 1943 Soviet liberation of Donbass from Nazi Germany. The monument had been damaged by Ukrainian shelling during the 2014 battles with the militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
“It is gratifying to know that this majestic complex has been restored with the utmost care,” Putin said in a video message recorded at the Kremlin, noting that its original obelisk and bas-relief have been complemented with an addition commemorating the “modern generation of heroes.”
Our hearts bleed when we see some countries demolish monuments to Soviet soldiers who gave their lives in the service of the freedom of their people, mock history, and cynically let down their own fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers. For Russia, this is unthinkable.
Putin added that Saur-Mogila is “hallowed grounds” for Russia, on the same level as Sapun Ridge outside Sevastopol and the monument to the defenders of Stalingrad at Mamayev Kurgan.
“The reconstructed memorial to the defenders of Donbass, the courage of our soldiers, officers and militias is a warning to all who have renounced their ancestors and forgotten the lessons of history,” the Russian president concluded.
Saur-Mogila is a dominant height on the Donets Ridge, rising to almost 300 meters above sea level. Soviet troops broke the German fortifications there in August 1943, as a massive tank battle raged near Kursk in the north. The city of Donetsk – then known as Stalino – was liberated on September 8. The monument built in the 1960s commemorated that victory.
The entire memorial was heavily damaged in August 2014, during the weeks of fighting between the Ukrainian “punitive expedition” and the Donetsk People’s Republic militia. The DPR and neighboring Lugansk had declared independence from Ukraine following a US-backed coup in Kiev in February and the installation of a government that included neo-Nazis.
The obelisk collapsed on August 21, 2014 after extended Ukrainian shelling, but the hill remained in DPR hands. Ten days later, the surrender of Ukrainian troops encircled at nearby Ilovaisk resulted in the first Minsk ceasefire.