MOSCOW, June 6. /TASS/. Russia urges the Ukrainian government to punish the vandals who have torn down the bust of Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov in Kharkov and bring them to responsibility, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
"Millions were shocked by another barbaric act by Ukrainian radical nationalists. I’m referring to the act of vandalism committed against a monument to Zhukov in Kharkov. With the connivance of local law-enforcement bodies, in broad daylight, neo-Nazi activists jeered when they tore down his bust. Let me remind you that he was the one who commanded Soviet troops when they liberated Ukraine from German invaders 75 years ago," she told reporters on Wednesday.
The spokeswoman went on to say that, apart from being an act of intimidation, the move was intended to test "how susceptible the Ukrainian society and the new government are to the virus of nationalism."
"Judging by the public outcry - which was, of course, loud - the majority of Ukrainian citizens, whose fathers and grandfathers saved the world from ‘the brown plague’ within the ranks of the Soviet Army, have strongly condemned this act of vandalism," she continued. "At the same time, we are surprised by the Kiev government’s late reaction, which says that the incident was Ukraine’s domestic matter."
"Russia, just like other former [Soviet] republics, cannot be unmoved by the fate of symbols of our common heroic history," she said. "We strongly condemn this act, committed by extremists who style themselves as patriots and are trying to bolster their self-esteem by waging a war against monuments. We urge Ukraine’s incumbent government to give a proper assessment of this incident, to find and punish those guilty, to stop the policy of connivance and encouragement of radical and nationalist forces and to take proper measures to protect our common cultural and historical heritage."
Activists of nationalist organizations on Sunday demolished the monument amid protests against a congress of a new party, Doveryai Delam (Trust in Deeds), claiming that the bust violated Ukraine’s decommunization law prohibiting Communist symbols. Kharkov’s Mayor Gennady Kernes has pledged the monument would be restored on a donation basis. Police launched two criminal cases into the incident.