Bid to restore Soviet-era Moscow statue raises controversy

AP News
Posted: Jun 24, 2015 2:04 PM
Bid to restore Soviet-era Moscow statue raises controversy

MOSCOW (AP) — The Moscow city legislature on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for a popular vote on whether to restore the statue of the Soviet secret police's founder to a square in central Moscow, but the city election commission vowed to block the motion.

The statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the Bolshevik revolutionary nicknamed Iron Felix, stood outside KGB headquarters in Moscow until it was toppled by protesters in 1991 when the Soviet Union was heading to its breakup.

Images of demonstrators dismantling the towering figure with the help of a construction crane were among the most iconic symbols of the Soviet collapse.

Since then, Dzerzhinsky's statue has remained in a downtown park along with other sculptures of Soviet leaders removed from their locations.

Communists and other hardliners long have pushed for restoring the Dzerzhinsky monument to its original place, but authorities had ignored their demands until now.

The main KGB successor, the FSB, has its main headquarters in the imposing building on Moscow's Lubyanka Square.

Wednesday's decision by the city legislature allowed the Communist Party to go ahead and collect the nearly 150,000 signatures needed to hold a referendum in September.

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However, Moscow Election Commission spokesman Dmitry Reut said later that it wouldn't allow the collection of signatures to start. Speaking to the Interfax news agency, he pointed at a law allowing the commission to act in such a way and said it would formally refuse on Thursday to register a group that would collect signatures for holding the vote.