GERMANY TO COMMEMORATE ITS LAND'S BIGGEST WWII BATTLE

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SEELOW, GERMANY, April 6 (RIA Novosti's Taras Lariokhin) - The Seelow Heights, not far from Frankfurt-am-Oder, was the site of the largest World War II battle in Germany. It came as part of the Soviet Army's Berlin operation. The place is getting ready to commemorate its upcoming 60th anniversary.

Lev Kerbel, one of the foremost Soviet sculptors, made a memorial on the site, unveiled November 1945, on Marshal Georgi Zhukov's order. A spring cleaning is on there now-there are tiles to replace, another coat of paint to add on Soviet armored vehicles and artillery guns displayed nearby, and gravestones to wash.

The memorial complex centers round a giant statue of a Soviet soldier, with an enemy tank gun turret at his feet. The statue saw repairs, 2002, so everything will be spick-and-span by April 16, the day the great battle started, says Gerd-Ulrich Hermann, memorial director.

The celebrations will gather many guests of honor-suffice it to name Mathias Platzek, Brandenburg Minister-President; Vladimir Kotenev, Russian Ambassador to Germany; and other VIPs. What matters most, battle veterans of both belligerent sides will attend the event to bow to the memory of all fallen in the Battle of Seelow, Herr Hermann went on.

The Seelow Heights storm went on from April 16 into 19, 1945. Soviet casualties made 33,000, say official statistics. Certain independent experts insist on 300,000, with reference to Marshal Zhukov. 5,000 Polish soldiers died in the battle, and 12,000 Wehrmacht soldiers-Herr Hermann makes it a point not to say "German soldiers" in the context.

Fighting the Soviet Army in the Battle of Seelow were Lettish, Belgian and Dutch Waffen SS units, alongside the Russian Liberation Army under General Vlasov.

Seelow casualty statistics are extremely approximate, he said to newsmen as he pointed from a hill, 48 meters high, on which the memorial is, down at a giant cemetery. 150 to 200 unburied bodies are unearthed on the site every year. More than 9,000 tons of munitions were unearthed and defused in the vicinity between 1991 and 2003 alone.

It took the Soviet Army immeasurable sacrifices to liberate Germany from the National Socialist yoke sixty years ago. The memory of that feat of martial glory is to stay evergreen forever, said Hermann.

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