Ukraine nationalists tear down Kharkiv's Lenin statue

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Media caption,

There were huge cheers from the crowd as the statue came down

Nationalists have torn down a statue of Lenin in the centre of Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, in a move supported by officials.

People cheered and leapt for joy as the statue came crashing down.

Pro-Russian demonstrators in the largely Russian-speaking city defended the statue in February, when President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted.

Kharkiv escaped the violent unrest which swept through east Ukraine's other regions, Donetsk and Luhansk.

A fragile ceasefire has been in place for weeks between pro-Russian separatists in those two regions.

On Sunday night, when nationalist protesters had already gathered around the statue for a "Kharkiv is Ukraine" rally, the governor of Kharkiv region, Ihor Baluta, signed an order to dismantle the statue.

Some correspondents say the order was probably a last-minute face-saving move.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Pro-Russian demonstrators rallied at the statue over the winter months

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote on Facebook (in Russian) that he had given orders for police to ensure only the safety of people, "not the idol".

"Lenin? Let him fall..." he wrote. "As long as people don't get hurt. As long as this bloody communist idol does not take more victims with it when it goes."

However, Ukrainian media reported that police had begun an investigation into "vandalism".

One protester was reportedly injured in the head as the statue was dismantled.