May 8, 2019 / 5:36 PM / 4 months ago

Russian WW2 veteran, 100, calls for peace on Victory Day

World War Two veteran Nikolay Bagayev, 100, poses for a picture dressed in his uniform, in front of his apartment block in Korolyov, north of Moscow, Russia April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Centenarian World War Two veteran Nikolay Bagayev will be among Russians across the country commemorating the anniversary of the war’s end on Thursday. He told his story to his granddaughter, Reuters Moscow bureau reporter Olesya Astakhova.

“A starving peace is better than a well-fed war,” says 100-year-old decorated World War Two veteran Nikolay Bagayev.

As Russia on Thursday marks the 74th Victory Day since the end of World War Two in Europe, with nationwide events headlined by a vast military parade on Red Square, he will be among millions across the country celebrating the occasion.

Born in 1918, not long after the Bolshevik Revolution, Bagayev lived through many of the tumultuous chapters of the Soviet Union in the 20th century and was twice wounded - once gravely - in what Russians call the Great Patriotic War.

He spent much of the war in forests near Moscow, fought in the Battle of Moscow, and later took part in the Soviet Red Army’s assault on Koenigsberg, then part of Nazi Germany and now, as part of Russia, known as Kaliningrad.

After the war, he worked in the steppes of the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, living at first in a tent, and helped to build the cosmodrome, now known as Baikonur, that sent the first man - Yuri Gagarin - into space in 1961.

Bagayev now lives in Korolyov, a town outside Moscow and draws a veteran’s pension of 40,000 roubles ($613) a month, much higher than the national average.

Despite his years, he remains active and can be seen around town, sometimes donning a uniform festooned with medals. He uses a mobile phone and a laptop and occasionally poses for selfies with locals.

The Soviet Union that he lived in for most of his life is long gone but, almost three decades after its breakup, he remains a committed communist and continues to make contributions to the opposition Communist Party.

Reporting by Olesya Astakhova; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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