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A Soviet general's statue in Prague was removed by a local council, prompting protest from Moscow. Ivan Konev led the liberation of the Czech capital in 1945, but many Czechs criticize his crackdowns after World War II.
Prague's District 6 council used a crane Friday to implement its decision last September to remove a statue of Ivan Stepanovic Konev, a World War II commander, whose statue was erected in 1980.
Konev led Red Army forces who retook much of Eastern Europe from German Nazi forces in World War II, and was part of the liberation of Berlin and Prague in 1945.
He later, however, led the crushing of the anti-Soviet 1956 Hungarian Uprising and prepared the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia.
In 1961, during the construction of the Berlin Wall, he commanded Soviet forces in the communist then-East Germany.
On Friday, local Prague politician Ondrej Kolar declared: "Konev has been toppled, but Konev will stand again — only in the museum."
The statue was put in storage, said Kolar, for a planned Museum of the 20th century, which the Czech capital plans to open in the coming years.
Czech President Milos Zeman slammed the statute's removal, accusing Kolar's council of abusing the current coronavirus crisis, according to a presidential spokesperson.
Radio Prague also quoted Communist Party leader Vojtech Filip as describing the statue's disappearance from public view as disgraceful.
A heated debate over the Konev statue has raged for decades between supporters of 1945 Red Army liberation and those critical of his repressive roles later.
Last December the Prague Morning newspaper reported that "vandals" had slung a chain of sausages over the statue's arm.
Paint smears were also removed in the past. Last August last year some sprayed: "No to the blood-covered marshal, we shall not forget."
The local council's removal decision prompted an expression of indignation from the Russian Foreign Ministry, which on Friday spoke of an "unfriendly" act of "vandalism by unhinged municipal representatives."
ipj/sms (AFP, AP, dpa)