Ukrainians are defiantly toppling statues of Russian and Soviet writers, philosophers and war heroes as they continue to resist the illegal invasion of their country by Vladimir Putin’s forces. Pictures taken on Boxing Day show two monuments being unceremoniously removed by cranes in Dnipro, central Ukraine, before being taken away on the back of trucks.
The colossal statues were dedicated to Soviet-era test pilot Valery Chkalov – who was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union in 1936 – and to Russian writer and socialist political thinker and proponent Maxim Gorky.
Both icons were removed from the city which earlier this month also dismantled a towering structure created in honour of poet Alexander Pushkin, as well as another statue for Soviet Pioneer Volodia Dubinin.
Dozens of statues related to Ukraine’s past as part of the USSR have been removed across the country since the illegal Russian invasion began in February.
Russian President Putin has repeatedly expressed his desire to take control of Ukraine which he views as a former Soviet territory which he believes rightfully belongs to the Russian empire he would like to re-emerge.
However, over the course of the 10-month-war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, Ukrainians have only hardened their attitudes towards the Russian invaders and cultural links are being demolished at an increasing rate.
The latest statue removal spate saw Maxim Gorky toppled. The Russian, who was not born in Ukraine, was nominated five times for the Noble Prize for Literature. Gorky publically opposed the Tsar during the Russian Revolution and was exiled before being personally invited back to the Soviet Union by Josef Stalin.
Valery Chkalov was credited with some extraordinary aviation achievements. In 1936 and 1937, he participated in several ultra-long flights, including a 63-hour flight from Moscow, Soviet Union to Vancouver, Washington, United States via the North Pole in a Tupolev ANT-25 airplane, a non-stop distance of 5,475 miles.
The flight pioneered the polar air route from Europe to the American Pacific Coast.
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As the cultural wars continue so too did the war of words with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warning today that Ukraine must demilitarise as he threatened further military action and falsely accused Kyiv and the West of fueling the Ukraine war.
Mr Lavrov told the state Tass news agency: “As for the duration of the conflict, the ball is on the side of the (Kyiv) regime and Washington that stands behind its back, they may stop senseless resistance at any moment.”
In an apparent reaction, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that “Russia needs to face the reality.”
He said: “Neither total mobilization, nor panicky search for ammo, nor secret contracts with Iran, nor Lavrov’s threats will help. Ukraine will demilitarize the RF (Russian Federation) to the end, and oust the invaders from all occupied territories. Wait for the finale silently…”
Both statements illustrate how complex and difficult any attempts to end the war could be. Ukraine has said in the past that it wouldn’t negotiate with Russia before the full withdrawal of its troops, while Moscow insists its military gains and the 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula cannot be ignored.
Meanwhile, fierce fighting continued on Tuesday in the Russia-claimed Donetsk and Luhansk regions that recently have been the scene of the most intense clashes.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said that Russian forces are trying to encircle the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, but without success. Heavy battles are also underway around the city of Kreminna in the Luhansk region, Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said.
In the partially occupied southern Kherson region, Russian forces shelled Ukrainian-held areas 40 times on Monday, wounding one person, Ukrainian authorities said. The city of Kherson itself — which Ukraine retook last month in a major win — was targeted 11 times, said regional administrator Yaroslav Yanushevich.