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Putin tells of brother’s tragic death in Leningrad siege

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday told the tragic story of his elder brother who died in the Nazi siege of Leningrad that killed up to 1.5 million residents during World War II.

On the 68th anniversary of the lifting of the blockade, Putin visited a cemetery in Saint Petersburg, and in rare personal comments talked about his brother, who died a decade before his birth.

“I don’t even know where my own brother is buried, whom I never saw, never knew,” Putin said, adding that the authorities took the toddler away from his parents in 1942 as part of a state drive to ensure children survived.

“They took them away then to save them, but unfortunately, he fell ill, I think with diphtheria, and died,” said the prime minister, who is seeking a third term in the Kremlin in March 4 polls.

“They reported that he died but didn’t say where he was buried, so it is very likely that he is buried here somewhere,” he said, while visiting the cemetery which contains mass graves of siege victims.

Putin was born in 1952 in Leningrad and grew up as his parents’ only child. He recently spoke of his father as a strict, principled Communist, while his mother hid from him the fact that she had young Putin christened.

The prime minister grew up in a city pervaded by memories of the 900-day siege, when millions of residents were unable to evacuate and food rations fell to starvation levels over freezing winter months.

Local history enthusiasts searched archives for Putin’s brother and found that he was indeed buried in the Piskaryovskoye cemetery that the prime minister visited.

A book of memory listing the victims of the siege records a Viktor Vladimirovich Putin, who was born in 1940 and died in 1942 and was buried in the Piskaryovskoye cemetery, Fontanka.ru city news website reported.

The siege, which began in September 1941 and continued until January 27, 1944 killed between 600,000 and 1.5 million civilians in bombardments and from starvation, according to historians.

More than 420,000 city residents who died in the siege are buried in 186 mass graves in the Piskaryovskoye cemetery to the north of the city.