"We must never take our freedom for granted"

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Magnus Mæland delivered his speech at the site were 11 Norwegian partisans were brutally killed by German Nazi forces in August 1943.

Kirkenes is located in short distance from Russia. It was occupied by Hitler’s forces for more than three years and experienced harsh oppression and fierce war battles.

The mayor praised the partisans that paid the high price for their resistance against the invaders.

“They gave everything they had for our freedom in the fight against totalitarianism, against Nazism,” he underlined.

 

Wreaths put on the partisan memorial in Kirkenes to the honour of veterans and freedom fighters. Photo: Atle Staalesen

 

The ceremony took place only one day after Mæland met with the Mayor of Ukrainian city Kherson. The meeting took place during Democracy Week in Kristiansand, southern Norway, where also former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushenko participated.

It made a great impression on the local Norwegian leader.

“He showed me photos of his town before and after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. He is a local leader, the same age as I, and his job is now to build shelters and gather international support,” Mæland explained in his speech.

On Liberation and Veterans Day, Norway celebrates the end of the Second World War and honours its military veterans.

Minister of Fisheries Marianne Sivertsen Næss represented the Norwegian government in today’s ceremony in Kirkenes. Photo: Atle Staalesen

“The price for freedom is high, and it is a price that we always must be prepared to pay. We must never take our freedom for granted,” Mayor Mæland underlined.

“On the 8th of May 1945 all of Norway was liberated when allied forces gave us freedom. It is a day when we commemorate the ones that gave their lives for our freedom.”

Since his election in 2023, Mæland has repeatedly condemned Russia’s war of aggression, and he was instrumental in the recent scrapping of a so-called friendship agreement with the neighbouring Russian municipality of Pechenga.

“The only thing totalitarian regimes understand is clarity,” he said following the scrapping of the agreement. “We cannot have friendship agreements with municipalities like Pechenga when the mayor over there drives around with a Z on his car,” he underlined.