A ceremony has been held in Belarus to rebury the remains of 224 Napoleonic
troops which were discovered near to an 1812 battlefield.
Until very late in the day the French embassy did not received
permission from the Belarusian authorities for the reburial, said Viktor Shumsky, an official with
the Belarusian defence ministry.
The remains of the soldiers who served Napoleon Bonaparte were
found in Belarus. A Belarusian army search unit found the graves in a rural
region of the central Minsk province.
Talks were in progress with representatives of the French
government to transfer the graves to the site of the 1812 battlefield,
which is also in Belarus, said Viktor Shumsky.
Paris requested that the soldiers be reburied near the
Belarusian town of Borisov, by the River Berezina, east of the
capital of Minsk. During
its retreat from Russia, Napoleon's Grande Armee was ravaged by
Cossacks and cold weather during a contested crossing of the river from
26-29 November 1812.
Creation of a formal cemetery for the Napoleonic soldiers was
complicated, Shumsky said, by the need to clear its construction
with Belarusian ecological and historical protection agencies, as
the site already contains a memorial to a forced crossing of the
Berezina by Red Army troops in 1944.
The French soldiers' remains
would be "fully protected in any case," he said. "There will be no
vandal attacks on the remains of these French troops in our
country," he stressed.
The ceremony took place on the 194th anniversary of the crossing
of the Berezina by Napoleon's troops, as Russian forces shelled
Re-enactors, dressed as 1812-era Russian soldiers, fired a
cannon in salute. Orthodox and Roman Catholic prayers were offered
in the French, Old Slavonic and Belarussian languages.