Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the World War II veterans to cooperate with the court in the investigations of crimes committed by the Nazi army.
According to reports from the Kremlin, the new investigations focus on World War II-era atrocities committed by Nazi forces across Russia, including in Volgograd.
Last month, in what appears to be the first ruling of its kind, a court in the northwestern region of Novgorod said mass killings of Soviet citizens in the village of Zhestyanaya Gorka were an act of genocide by the Nazi army.
When 94-year-old World War II veteran Vasily’s family made their regular check of his mailbox on Saturday they found a formal summons from the prosecutor’s office in Volgograd, a city in southern Russia previously known as Stalingrad.
It said he had to attend a hearing on Dec. 1 to be questioned as a witness in the murders of at least 1,700 Soviet citizens committed by Nazi invaders and their accomplices during the occupation of the Stalingrad region between July 17, 1942, and Feb. 2, 1943.
“We just couldn’t believe that the prosecutors would summon a frail old man to their offices during the coronavirus outbreak using such a strict tone,” the veteran’s grandson Denis Chistyakov told local daily. “Why not just come to his house for a chat?”
While Russia has in recent years launched a series of new archive probes into World War II, reports are now starting to emerge of veterans being summoned to recount their experiences. The shift comes against a background of what observers say is a newfound interest — spearheaded by President Vladimir Putin — in the conflict and how the world remembers it.
The family ignored the summons and decided not to mention it to Vasily — who fought in the Battle of Stalingrad and was later taken prisoner and sent to eastern Germany — fearing the investigation would damage his health. The document said Vasily would be forced to attend another hearing if he didn’t show up, but there has been no follow up regarding his non-appearance yet.
“He doesn’t really like talking about those war days,” Chistyakov said. The prosecutors’ office in Volgograd told media that such summons had been sent to at least 80 veterans in the region; the independent Novaya Gazeta outlet reported that they were also being sent to veterans throughout the country.