The Russian city of St Petersburg has marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War siege by Nazi forces with a large military parade in the city’s Palace Square.
The siege of the city, then called Leningrad, lasted nearly two and a half years until the Soviet army drove the Nazis out on January 27 1944.
Estimates of the death toll vary, but historians agree that more than a million Leningrad residents died from hunger or air and artillery bombardments during the siege.
On Sunday, more than 2,500 soldiers and 80 units of military equipment paraded as snow fell and temperatures hovered around minus 18C.
The vehicles included a T34 tank. The tanks played a key role in defeating the Nazis and became a widely revered symbol of the nation’s wartime valour and suffering.
During the siege, most Leningrad residents had to survive on rations of just 125 grammes of bread a day and whatever other food they could buy or exchange at local markets after selling their belongings.
Russian President Vladimir Putin later laid flowers at a monument in Piskarevskoye Cemetery, where hundreds of thousands of siege victims are buried.
He did not attend the parade, which some civic groups had objected to as inappropriate, saying the day should commemorate victims rather than flaunt military strength.
Among those who succumbed to the deprivations of the siege was the one-year-old brother of Mr Putin. The president himself was born after the siege, in 1952.
On Sunday, the Kremlin announced that he had signed an order allocating 150 million rubles (£1.7 million) for creating new exhibits at the state museum of the siege.
“Today we mourn those who died defending Leningrad, who at the cost of their lives broke through the blockade. We recall those who worked in the besieged city, who, risking themselves, delivered bread and medicine along the Road of Life,” prime minister Dmitry Medvedev wrote on social media.
He was referring to the ice road across Lake Ladoga that was the only conduit for supplies and evacuations during much of the siege.