Ukraine unrest: Lenin monument toppled as pro-EU protests rage in Kiev

Pro-EU Ukrainian protesters today toppled a statue of the Soviet Union`s founder Vladimir Lenin in Kiev after hundreds of thousands massed for a new protest in an increasingly tense standoff with government.

AFP| Updated: Dec 09, 2013, 12:01 PM IST

Kiev: Pro-EU Ukrainian protesters today toppled a statue of the Soviet Union`s founder Vladimir Lenin in Kiev after hundreds of thousands massed for a new protest in an increasingly tense standoff with President Viktor Yanukovych`s government.

The protesters had filled Independence Square in central Kiev and surrounding streets to bursting point to denounce Yanukovych`s rejection of an EU pact under Kremlin pressure, in the biggest protests since the 2004 Orange Revolution.
In a hugely symbolic denouement to the rally, dozens of masked protesters, some brandishing flags of ultra-nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party, tore down the 3.4 metre high statue of the Bolshevik leader after putting a rope noose round Lenin`s neck.

"Hang the Commie!" screamed the protesters.

They then hacked away with axes at the remnants of the monument lying flat on the ground. Parts of the statue including one of its hands were afterwards triumphantly brandished at the main demonstration on Independence Square.

"What an unpleasant suicide!" later quipped Svoboda leader Oleg Tyagnybok.
The protesters installed the Ukrainian state flag and the red and black banner of the wartime anti-Communist Ukrainian Insurgent Army on the empty plinth to the cries of "Thank God" and "Finally" from some 1,500 people at the scene.

Police opened a criminal probe into "mass riots" over the felling of the monument.

`He is no longer president`.

Upping the stakes in the confrontation, demonstrators had earlier erected one-and-a-half metre high barricades outside the seat of government which would make it impossible for ministers to go to their offices by car.

Jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko said the opposition was demanding the "immediate" resignation of Yanukovych, in a no-holds-barred statement read by her daughter.

"He is no longer the president of our state, he is a tyrant who must answer for every drop of blood that has been shed," Yevgenia Tymoshenko quoted her mother as saying, a giant portrait of the former prime minister sitting next to the stage.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Yanukovych by phone on Sunday to urge for dialogue with his rivals as large-scale protests gripped Kiev, the UN said.

A UN statement said Ban "expressed his grave concern about the situation in Ukraine, emphasised that there must be no resort to violence and appealed for peaceful dialogue among all parties concerned."