KIEV (AFP) - Ukrainians protesting against the government's rejection of a key pact with the European Union on Sunday toppled the statue of Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin in central Kiev, police said.
"People in masks toppled the statue of Lenin," a police spokeswoman told AFP, saying they brandished the flag of Ukraine's nationalist Freedom Party and threw flares. Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state, is a figure of hate for Ukrainian nationalists.
Television pictures showed the empty plinth of the Lenin statue on Bessarabia Square surrounded by jubilant protesters who hacked away with axes at the remnants of the monument lying flat on the ground. Reports said the statue's head had already been decapitated.
Parts of the statue were then brought to the main demonstration on Independence Square where speakers triumphantly brandished a massive hand of the Lenin figure.
The red granite, 3.45 metre (11 feet) high statue had first been erected in December 1946 just after World War II ended.
Leading opposition lawmaker Andriy Shevchenko said that the toppling of the statue had not been an initiative of the opposition leaders on Independence Square. "We can say that people organised themselves," he said.