Dec. 9 (UPI)-- Protesters in Kiev brought down a statue of Soviet hero Vladimir Lenin on Sunday, the latest action by demonstrators opposed to the Ukrainian government's decision to move away from the European Union and closer to Russia.
Protesters attacked the statue with hammers, leaving only remnants of Lenin's legs at the base. The nationalist Svoboda party claimed responsibility via Twitter for toppling the Lenin monument in Kiev's Bessarabska Square, proclaiming "This is the end of Soviet occupation... End of (the) regime of shame and humiliation."
The crowds gathered Sunday in Independence Square and surrounding streets were the largest since Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution. Estimates of the size varied by officials and rally organizers, who claimed 50,000 to 1 million protesters had gathered in Kiev. Demonstrators called for the dismissal of Yanukovich's cabinet and accountability for the brutal dispersal at the November 30 rally. Opposition activist and jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, speaking through her daughter at Sunday's rally, urged protesters to push for the removal of the "tyrant" president.
Demonstrations in Kiev began after Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovich announced on November 21 that Ukraine would not be joining the EU, a move that was seen as bowing to pressure from Russia and thwarting Ukraine's attempt to advance its economy. Protesters were further enraged following a meeting on Friday between Yanukovich and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was seen by protesters of further evidence of a Ukrainian trade pact with Russia.
[CNN] [Los Angeles Times] [UPI] [Wall Street Journal]