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KURSK, Russia (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday attended ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Kursk, in which the Red Army routed the Nazis.

The July-August 1943 battle marked the failure of the last major Nazi offensive on the Eastern Front called Operation Citadel and decisively turned the tide of war in favor of the Soviet Union.

It has been described as the largest tank battle in history, involving thousands of tanks on both sides. The Nazis suffered major losses, from which they never recovered.

Putin laid flowers Thursday at the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb in Kursk, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) southwest of Moscow, and talked to war veterans.

The Russian leader also visited the battle’s memorial, which features historic Soviet weapons, including the T-34 tank and Katyusha rocket launcher.

Putin told veterans the victory in the battle played a key role in Russia’s history.

“It was a definitive turning point in WW II,” Putin said.

He also praised activists who help find and identify the remains of the fallen Soviet soldiers.

“We still know the names of only half of soldiers who died,” he said. “We need to do a lot more to preserve the memory of our WWII heroes.”