A Soviet-era monument celebrating Ukraine’s bond with Russia was destroyed at the command of Kyiv’s mayor on Tuesday.
The huge bronze statue was 26 feet tall, and showed a Ukrainian and a Russian worker on a plinth, holding a Soviet order of friendship.
It was a symbolic gift from the Soviet Union to commemorate the reunification of Ukraine with Russia, but it had become increasingly controversial over the years as tensions between the countries grew.
The monument stood right under the titanium “People’s Friendship Arch,” which is still standing. The rainbow-shaped structure stretches up to 164 feet, and was built in 1982 to honor the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union.
Explaining why he had taken the decision to remove the bronze statue, Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said: “We now see what this ‘friendship’ is – destruction of Ukrainian cities… killing tens of thousands of peaceful people.
“I am convinced such a monument has an entirely different meaning now.”
“This place had a name, the place of friendship between Russia and Ukraine,” he added. “It’s no friendship anymore.”
He also pointed out to the BBC that “Russia destroyed the normal lives of millions of Ukrainians and destroyed the peace in Europe” through its two-month unprovoked attack on the neighboring nation.
The head of the Russian worker was removed first and fell to the ground to cheers from the crowd.
The entire statue was then lifted by a crane and lowered to the ground, as 100 people shouted slogans such as “glory to Ukraine,” according to Reuters news agency.
One of the designers of the statue, Serhiy Myrhorodsky, said: “Russia invaded Ukraine… Can we be friends with Russia? What do you think?
“This is our worst enemy, that is why the monument to Russian-Ukrainian friendship doesn’t make sense any more.”
One member of the public called Diana told Reuters: “We should not have any relations with the nation of aggressors… no friendship, no relations, nothing.”
More than 5 million people have fled from Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February.
The metal arch over the statue was altered in 2014 when Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. A crack was painted onto it by activists, to symbolise how Russia’s aggression had fractured their relationship.
Kyiv has since decided to rename the rainbow-shaped arch and paint it in the colours of the Ukrainian flag.
The Kyiv City Council also told a Ukrainian newspaper it was going to change the names of streets linked to Russia and its close ally Belarus.
The capital city itself is now widely known as Kyiv, rather than Kiev, because the latter was based on a historical Russian derivation, although Ukraine first implemented this change after it went independent in 1991.
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