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28 Oct, 2008 14:30

Vandals deface Russian monument in Ukraine

Police in Ukraine are hunting vandals who covered a statue of eighteenth-century Russian Empress Catherine the Great in yellow and blue paint – the colours of the Ukrainian flag. It's thought the monument in the Crimean city of Sevastopol was d

A meeting of pro-Russia Ukrainian politicians has been held near the statue to condemn what happened.

Sevastopol was founded by Catherine the Great as an outpost of the Russian Empire on the Black sea. About three quarters of the city's residents are ethnically Russian, and the port is the main base of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. The presence of the Russian navy in the Crimea is causing tension among some Ukrainians.
When Sevastopol marked its 225th anniversary in June, city celebrations were marred by a dispute over the monument. Local court officials tried to stop the unveiling of a bronze statue of Catherine the Great. They said that it was erected illegally and that no agreement had been reached on erecting it. Local activists guarded by for several days before its official unveiling.

The statue was done by a Ukrainian sculptor who died less than three weeks before it was due to go on show.

A year ago on the same day, Ukrainian nationalists clashed with police at the unveiling of a monument to Catherine the Great in another Ukrainian city, Odessa. It was also founded by the legendary Russian Empress. Hundreds of Ukrainian nationalists from across the country descended on Odessa to protest against the re-erection of a statue that was removed 80 years ago.

As part of a project to revamp the city centre, Odessa Council returned the statue of the Russian Empress to the square that bears her name.

Nationalists accuse Catherine of colonising Ukraine, and say her monument is an affront and a threat to Ukrainian independence. Many residents of Odessa, however, welcome the statue as a step towards reviving the city’s historic past.