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LAURENCE REES: And on the other hand you have this extraordinary Soviet commander - Chuikov. And from reading your book, it seems that it was by sheer force of will that he managed to hold Stalingrad?

ANTONY BEEVOR: Chuikov sensed the situation very clearly. There was the famous interview, whether it’s apocryphal or not one doesn’t know, with Khrushchev, who was the chief political officer of the Stalingrad Front, and Chuikov. Krushchev basically said to him 'do you understand your duties?' And Chuikov knew perfectly well what they were, i.e. he could shoot as many men as he wanted, he could do anything that he wanted including order the NKVD rifle battalions into the attack, which was totally unprecedented. So he knew he had carte blanche - but his life depended basically on holding Stalingrad. Chuikov was certainly physically a brave man and he was also, I think, probably morally courageous. He was utterly brutal, and famous for smashing his own officers in the face if he disagreed with them or he felt that they were in some ways not performing properly. So he was, shall we say, quite a force.

LAURENCE REES: So how crucial then was his leadership in influencing the outcome of the battle for Stalingrad?

ANTONY BEEVOR: Oh, I think Chuikov’s leadership was essential. I’m now talking about the fight for the city. Where Chuikov felt betrayed, if you like, and I think he was always bitter and angry afterwards, was that he was never told to what degree he was being left there as the bait in the trap. He was being given just enough troops to hold on, but not actually to win the battle within Stalingrad, because all the spare reserves were actually being built up behind the lines for these two massive pincer movements which were going to surround the whole of the 6th Army.