The unthinkable in mid-20th-century Soviet Russia was for a top general to become a traitor. Andrey Vlasov, 45, was a top Communist general, and one of Stalin’s most trusted military leaders. The unthinkable happened when the Germans captured him in 1942 and he informed them that he wanted to defect.

They allowed him to form his own Russian liberation army, whose purpose was to “liberate” Russia from Stalinism. But in 1945, painfully aware that he was on the wrong side, Vlasov surrendered his men to the Western Allies, who promptly handed them over to the Soviets.

The general and his rebel officers were tried in Moscow in the summer of 1946. He and 11 senior officers of the Liberation Army were hanged on Friday, August 2nd that year – the last executions by hanging to be held in Russia. After Vlasov all Russian executions were by a single bullet in the back of the head.

The rest of the liberation army soldiers were either mown down with machine-guns or sent to Soviet labour camps.