putin, pahor.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ STA/ Stanko GRUDEN/ ik

Presidents Borut Pahor of Slovenia and Vladimir Putin of Russia on Saturday paid their respects to Russian and Soviet soldiers killed in Slovenia in the First and Second World Wars by the Russian chapel at Vrsic Pass in the Julian Alps, and in their speeches they addressed current security issues in Europe and the rest of the world.

The wood chapel was erected by Russian prisoners of war in 1946 in memory of hundreds of comrades killed there in an avalanche in March 1916.

Nearly all Slovenian political leaders attended the commemoration, held under the tightest security, as well as representatives of the Russian and Serb Orthodox Churches, among others. Over 2,500 people attended.

In his address, Pahor mentioned the horrible consequences of the two world wars, voicing fear that a third one might break out, or something similar, highlighting terrorist threats, including in Europe.

The world is changing and it is difficult to distinguish between typical war and other threats such as terrorism and other forms of violence, but all forces must unite against them and find innovative ways of opposing them, President Pahor said, adding that terrorism threatened France and Germany, countries which had been considered safe, as well as Russia, the Middle East and the whole world.

All freedom-loving forces and states must join against them, regardless of mutual differences, he said. "That won't be easy, but constant dialogue is necessary to overcome mistrust," he said, adding that the "crazy violence" of contemporary terrorism justifiably embittered people and made them anxious about the future.

In his address, President Putin thanked the "friendly Slovenia," which he said always welcomed guests from Russia and maintained the friendship and the historical ties between the two nations. "A big thanks to Slovenia and Slovenians for everything you have done to keep alive the memory of the Russian war victims and of everything they gave," he said, adding that the Russian chapel remained a symbol of the friendship between Russia and Slovenia and their nations as well as their "joint desire for peace, well-being and prosperity."

In the afternoon, the two presidents unveiled at Ljubljana's Zale cemetery a monument to Russian and Soviet soldiers killed in Slovenia, which Putin said would be a reminder of Russia's decisive role in the liberation of Europe from Nazism and fascism.

Putin said Slovenia and Russia shared a part of history and that young people should be educated to remember the historical truths in order to prevent "forgeries" and that they should be taught about the need to cooperate and strengthen trust in Europe and the rest of the world. 

Putin and Pahor were also due to hold talks in Brdo Pri Kranju and then speak to the press. According to Russian sources, state delegations would discuss bilateral and economic issues, including sanctions against Russia, but according to Slovenia, Putin's visit is private and commemorative, so there will be no discussion of political matters and no agreement will be signed.

Putin's visit caused big traffic jams since early morning in Slovenia, Italy and Austria because of the tight security. He is due to leave Slovenia in the evening after a dinner organised by Pahor. This was Putin's third visit to Slovenia after 2001 and 2011.

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