Statues smashed as Ukraine moves to shed Soviet past
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Activists toppled three statues of Communist leaders overnight Friday in Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, days after parliament passed a controversial bill designed to purge the country of Soviet-era symbols.
A video posted on YouTube by an anti-Russian militant group called "We've had enough" shows the masked men smashing three large monuments glorifying Bolshevik leaders in Ukraine's second largest city.
The men can be seen using a ladder to hook the statues with a cable tied to a white van that pulls away, bringing the statues down. In one instance, police officers look on without attempting to intervene.
Previous attempts to remove Soviet-era symbols have stoked tension in the mostly-Russian speaking city of 1.4 million, located some 200 kilometres from the conflict zone in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, where pro-Russian insurgents are fighting the Kiev government in a conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people.
In February 2014, as protesters tore down dozens of statues of Lenin across Ukraine, scores of Kharkiv citizens formed a protective cordon around a statue of the former Soviet leader. It was eventually pulled down in September, in a move supported by local officials.
The latest incident comes less than 48 hours after Ukrainian lawmakers adopted controversial legislation designed to shed Ukraine's Soviet past.
The bills – which were adopted by a large majority but still need to be signed by President Petro Poroshenko – have heightened tensions in the war-divided country, and Friday prompted an angry reaction from Russia.
"Kiev used truly totalitarian methods of liquidating unwanted parties, civic organisations and movements," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement, also accusing Ukraine of "rewriting history".
The legislation bans Communist-era and Nazi symbols in what supporters said was a bid to break with the country's tragic World War II past and Moscow's domination through most of the 20th century.
It is likely to further alienate pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine’s east, who have made a point of their attachment to the Soviet era.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)