Kyiv officials have dismantled a bronze sculpture of two workers holding a medal in the city’s central square gifted to Ukraine by the Soviet government as a symbol of friendship between the two countries.
A massive titanium rainbow-shaped arch—dubbed the People’s Friendship Arch and also gifted by the U.S.S.R in 1982 — stretches above the monument. The sculptures have become increasingly contentious in recent years. Following the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ukrainian activists painted a jagged black crack on top of the arch. On Monday, with Ukraine under a devastating siege by Russia’s military, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced the fate of both monuments.
“This week we will dismantle a bronze sculpture of two workers, erected in 1982 ‘to commemorate the reunification of Ukraine with Russia,’ ” Klitschko said, according to CNN. “The eight meters of metal of the so-called ‘friendship of two peoples’ will be removed from the center of Kyiv.”
Klitschko said the arch will remain but will be renamed and painted with the Ukrainian national colors of yellow and blue.
Meanwhile, the Kyiv government plans to strip Russia’s legacy from monuments elsewhere in the city. Per the Kyiv Independent, the Kyiv City Council will change the names of streets, as well as memorials and plaques, with connections to Russia and Belarus. The latter country borders northern Ukraine and its government has faced international condemnation for allowing Russia to use its territory as a launch pad for air raids and missile strikes.
The Polish news site TVP World has identified 279 streets and squares, and 60 objects, that are liable to be renamed.
“Some names, such as ‘Moscow Street’ or ‘Amur Square’ will be changed. As for some others, such as ‘Belarusian Street’, we will consider that, as there are many Belarusians living in Ukraine, including people who fled the Lukashenka regime,” Volodymyr Bondarenko, the secretary of the Kyiv City Council, said in a statement.
Bondarenko said Kyiv residents can submit suggestions for streets to be renamed and objects to be removed by May 1, though the actual process of renaming will take place at a later time.
“We now have a unique possibility to resolve the matter of these streets and structures,” he said, adding that “no one intends to take books of Russian classical authors down from library shelves or forbid people to attend concerts of Rachmaninoff. But the matter of street names and memorials needs to be brought to a close.”