KIEV: Extremists blew up a controversial monument to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin on New Year's night in southeastern Ukraine in an “act of terror”, the local Communist Party said on Saturday.
The bust in the city of Zaporizhia, unveiled this May, caused a heated controversy in Ukraine which is still split between its nationalist west and the more Russian orientated east which fondly remembers the Soviet past.
“A criminal broke into the grounds of the Communist Party regional headquarters, and laid an explosive charge which detonated after a few minutes,” the Communist Party said.
“The statue of Stalin was destroyed as a result of the blast,” the Communists said in a statement. It said that the explosion inflicted serious damage on the building but there were no casualties.
The explosion took place at 10:40 pm (2040 GMT) on New Year's Eve, it said.
“By a pure chance there were no casualties. Most probably the explosive was filled with the metal items,” lawmaker Oleksiy Baburin, head of the Zaporizhia Communists told a press conference.
“This is not a hooliganism but a terrorist attack,” he added as quoted by Communist party press service.
The local police said in a statement that according to its information a group of several people passed the monument just a few minutes before the explosion.
“One of them climbed over the fence and fastened to the monument a shopping bag which evidently contained the hand-made explosive device,” the police said, adding that those behind the blast were currently being searched.
Meanwhile, the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) group reported that the police had already arrested its head in Zaporizhia, Vitaliy Podlobnikov, and his deputy on the youth issues, Yuriy Hudymenko, on charges of causing the Stalin monument destruction.
The same statue had been badly damaged last week in a blast claimed by Nationalist group Tryzub (Trident) which denounced Stalin as “the executioner of the Ukrainian people and an international terrorist.”
Then, there had been some doubt over the true state of the statue as the Communists had draped it in a large white cloth to prevent the extent of the damage from being seen.
However there was no mystery on this occasion as pictures showed that the bust had been completely destroyed by the blast, leaving only the plinth in place.
Stalin is a hate figure for many in Ukraine who blame him for intentionally allowing the deaths of millions of Ukrainians in a 1930s famine known as the Holodomor that nationalists regard as a genocide.
Channel News Asia