KHARKIV, Ukraine: Masked men toppled three statues of Communist leaders overnight Friday Ukraine’s city of Kharkiv, days after parliament moved to purge Soviet-era symbols countrywide.
A video posted on YouTube by an anti-Russian militant group called “We’ve had enough” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4Q7a_IXX40 — shows the men smashing three large monuments glorifying Bolshevik leaders in Ukraine’s second largest city.
The Russian-speaking city of 1.4 million people close the northeastern border with Russia is about 200 kilometres away from the conflict zone in Donetsk and Lugansk regions, where pro-Russian insurgents are fighting the Kiev government in a conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people.
The video shows the men using a ladder to hook the statues with a cable tied to a white van which pulls away, bringing them down, with the police in one instance looking on without attempting to intervene.
There was no immediate comment from the authorities on the incident that comes less than 48 hours after parliament adopted controversial legislation designed to shed Ukraine’s Soviet past.
The bills, adopted by a large majority but which still needs to be signed by President Petro Poroshenko, have stoked tensions in the war-divided country and Friday prompted an angry reaction from Russia.
“Kiev used truly totalitarian methods of liquidating unwanted parties, civic organizations 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.
Ukrainian insurgents, who Kiev and the West say operate with Russian military assistance, make a point of their attachment to the Russian-dominated Soviet era.
Russia said the law would “create divisions” and promote a “nationalist ideology”.