Putin un­veils a gi­ant con­tro­ver­sial statue

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MOSCOW:

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin yes­ter­day un­veiled a gi­ant statue by the Krem­lin of his name­sake Vladimir the Great, a revered leader and Or­tho­dox saint, that has faced crit­i­cism from lo­cals and con­ser­va­tion­ists. The 17me­tre mon­u­ment of Vladimir, the prince who con­verted mod­ern Rus­sia’s pre­cur­sor state Kievan Rus to Chris­tian­ity in 988, has sparked con­tro­versy over fears it could blot Moscow’s his­toric cen­tre.

The open­ing of the statue-backed by the in­flu­en­tial Or­tho­dox Church-comes as the au­thor­i­ties under Putin con­tinue to stoke a wave of na­tion­al­ism fired up by Moscow’s 2014 an­nex­a­tion of Crimea and sub­se­quent stand­off with the West. “Prince Vladimir has gone down for­ever in his­tory as the uni­fier and de­fender of Rus­sian lands, as a vi­sion­ary politi­cian,” Putin told of­fi­cials as Rus­sia marked its na­tional Unity Day hol­i­day. “To­day our duty is to stand up to­gether against mod­ern chal­lenges and threats by bas­ing our­selves on this spir­i­tual legacy.”

The de­ci­sion to erect the mon­u­ment just yards from the famed Krem­lin walls has sparked an out­cry from lo­cal con­ser­va­tion­ists and prompted con­cerns from UNESCO that it could jeop­ar­dize the Krem­lin’s sta­tus as a World Her­itage site. Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties only came up with the lo­ca­tion af­ter tens of thou­sands of Mus­covites signed a pe­ti­tion against an ear­lier plan to place the mon­u­ment on a prom­i­nent hill over­look­ing the city. The statue was ini­tially in­tended to be some 24 me­ters tall and weigh ap­prox­i­mately 300 tons but it was scaled down af­ter it was shifted to cen­tral Moscow. The fig­ure of Vladimir-a war­lord who killed his brother and, ac­cord­ing to le­gend, had some 800 con­cu­bines-has be­come in­creas­ingly politi­cized since Moscow seized Crimea from ex-Soviet neigh­bor Ukraine.

Vladimir was chris­tened in the an­cient city of Cher­son­e­sos on the Crimea penin­sula, with Putin us­ing the spir­i­tual ties to the region to strengthen Rus­sia’s claim over the area. But op­po­nents of the statue say Vladimir had no his­toric links to Moscow, which did not ex­ist dur­ing his life­time, and point out that the king­dom he ruled was based around the mod­ern Ukrainian cap­i­tal Kiev. Vladimir is al­ready com­mem­o­rated with a large statue in Kiev, which is locked in a bit­ter stand­off with Moscow. — AFP

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