KIEV (Reuters) - Exhaustive efforts to tear down Ukraine’s largest remaining monument to Vladimir Lenin bore fruit on Thursday when workers prised the late Soviet leader’s statue from its plinth in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhya.
Since a pro-Western uprising ousted a Russia-backed president in 2014, Ukraine has passed laws aimed at severing the former Soviet republic from its communist past - a move some have criticized as an attempt to erase history.
Nearly 1,000 statues of Lenin have been removed since anti-government protesters tore down his Kiev monument in late 2013, but the 20-metre (66 ft) size of the Zaporizhzhya monument frustrated multiple attempts to pull it down this week.
“It would be easy to demolish it: place an explosive, blow it up and everything, but to take it down carefully and transport it to a storage place for totalitarian statues needs more care,” a spokeswoman for the local mayor’s office said.
“The papers on how it was built are all in Moscow, so it’s being taken down with a method of trial and error,” she said. “Relations aren’t so friendly at the moment that they (Russian authorities) would reply quickly to a query.”
The 60-year-old bronze statue, which depicts the Russian revolutionary holding one arm aloft, was finally brought to the ground by a crane after workers loosened its base.
Pro-Ukrainian activists had previously made fun of the monument by dressing Lenin in a traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt and the national soccer team’s yellow jersey.
A webcam broadcasting live footage of the statue’s removal attracted thousands of views.
The accompanying commentary highlighted how polarized the region had become through the 2013-14 uprising, Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and the ensuing pro-Russian separatist conflict in which over 9,000 have been killed.
The laws on ‘decommunisation’ were passed by parliament last May and their implementation has gathered pace in recent months. Besides removing Soviet monuments, the program plans to rename 941 cities, towns and villages, according to data from the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory.
In December, Amnesty International said Ukraine had flagrantly violated freedom of expression by banning the Community party under the new legislation.
Additional reporting by Alexei Kalmykov and Natalia Zinets; Editing by Tom Heneghan