KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian authorities have described as an act of terrorism a New Year’s Eve explosion that destroyed a new statue of dictator Josef Stalin in a city in central Ukraine.
The unveiling of the statue, the first new public monument to Stalin in decades, in Zaporizhya in May last year fueled tension between Ukraine’s pro-Russian east and nationalist west.
Many people in the west and center of the country see Stalin as a symbol of Russian oppression and hold him responsible for the 1933 famine which killed millions of Ukrainians, including many in Zaporizhya.
But some older people in the mainly Russian-speaking east and south still praise him as a heroic leader who led Soviet forces to victory over the Nazis in World War Two.
The statue, which stook near a Communist Party office in Zaporizhya, was blown up on December 31, the eve of the birthday of Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian World War Two nationalist leader. No one was hurt in the attack.
“It has been reassessed as ... a terrorist act,” the state prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the SBU security service was investigating the case.
‘The First of January movement’ had claimed responsibility for the blast, saying it was intended to mark the 102nd anniversary of Bandera’s birth, the statement said.
The organization threatened to carry out further attacks on targets including public servants, law enforcement officials, “Zionists” and synagogues, the statement added.
Writing by Olzhas Auyezov, editing by Tim Pearce