Multiple media reports say anti-government protesters in Kiev, the capitol of Ukraine, have toppled and smashed a statue of Vladimir Lenin, leader of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and Soviet founder, during a massive demonstration challenging the government of President Viktor Yanukovich. The protests began in response to Yanukovich's plans to build closer ties with Russia, and are aimed at forcing his entire government to resign. The New York Times is reporting that "hundreds of thousands" of Ukrainians have poured into the streets chanting, “Resignation! Resignation!”
Other reports from around the world say the protesters took turns smashing the statue of Lenin, reducing it to bits, while others chanted "Yanukovich, you are next!" and "Glory to Ukraine!"
The eleven-foot-high statue, which was made of red granite, had been in place since the end of WWII. Reports say the crowd cheered wildly as a woman planted a European Union flag on the pedestal where the statue had stood just moments before.
The demonstrations, which are an outright rejection of Moscow's growing influence over the government of Yanukovich, began after Yanukovich's government tossed out an economic agreement with the European Union last month in an effort to build closer ties with Russia. Opposition leader Andriy Shevchenko has asked the public to keep pressure on until both Yanukovich and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resign.
Prime Minister Azarov called the destruction of the statue "barbarism," according to the Interfax News Agency. Many are concerned that Yanukovich may declare a state of emergency in Ukraine, and crack down on protesters in order to quell opposition.
Interfax is also reporting that the National Resistance Headquarters established by the opposition said it would take full responsibility for the situation in Ukraine if a state of emergency is declared.
In an statement to the nation, the NRH said, "If [President Viktor] Yanukovich attempts to introduce unconstitutionally the state of emergency in Ukraine, the National Resistance Headquarters, supported by the people's will, will consider the president, the Cabinet of Ministers and other state agencies to be illegitimate and will be forced to take the entire responsibility for the situation in the country upon itself."
Demonstrators and police have clashed repeatedly over the last few weeks, raising concerns over the economic and political stability of the country.