New monument to Soviet leader Stalin unveiled ahead of WW2 anniversary

Feb 1 (Reuters) - A new bust of Soviet leader Josef Stalin has been unveiled in Volgograd ahead of Wednesday's 80th anniversary of the Red Army's defeat of Nazi invaders in the bloodiest battle of World War Two.

The bust is flanked by two others - Soviet commanders Georgy Zhukov and Alexander Vasilyevsky - beside the Museum of the Battle of Stalingrad - Volgograd's name from 1925 to 1961, the local news outlet V1.RU reported on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to visit Volgograd on Wednesday for anniversary celebrations at Mamayev Kurgan, the hilltop war memorial whose 85-metre (279-foot) statue of Mother Russia dominates the city.

The battle, fought between 1942 and 1943 and estimated to have claimed 2 million casualties, is widely seen as the moment when the Nazi German forces that had captured most of Europe were finally forced onto the defensive.

The industrial city of Tsaritsyn on the River Volga in southern Russia was renamed in honour of Stalin in 1925, but became Volgograd in 1961, eight years after his death, after his legacy fell out of favour.

Despite Stalin's record of presiding over a famine that killed millions in Ukraine and political repression that killed hundreds of thousands, Putin has sought to rehabilitate him as the leader who not only fought off Hitler's Nazis but also turned the Soviet Union into a significant world power.

Writing by Kevin Liffey; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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