Ukrainian Communists unveil monument to Stalin amid nationalist protest

KIEV, Ukraine — Communists unveiled a monument to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin on Wednesday, sparking the anger of Ukrainian nationalists.

The 8-foot monument shows Stalin from the waist up and is mounted on a pedestal in front of the Communist Party's office in the city of Zaporizhya.

The unveiling comes ahead of Sunday's 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. Many Communists revere Stalin as commander-in-chief during the war.

A recording of Stalin's voice was played, red flags waved and the pedestal was covered with flowers.

"Stalin, rise and establish order!" a poster read.

But about 200 demonstrators protested the monument's opening. Nationalists denounce Stalin as an oppressor of Ukraine, as he was the Soviet Union's leader during the state-induced famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s.

Police did not allow the protesters to approach the monument. No unrest was reported, but a Communist supporter threw eggs at the protesters.

The protesters, some in Ukrainian traditional clothes, carried nationalist symbols, while a few elderly people held posters reading "Stalin killed my youth."

"Stalin is a hangman, guilty of genocide against the Ukrainian people," said activist Vitaliy Pidlobnykov. "This is a political speculation of the Communists who use nostalgia of elderly people."

In Kiev, Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych criticized the move, saying there was "no need to place monuments to tyrants."

A poll conducted by the Kiev-based Razumkov Center nationwide on April 14-21 showed 56.7 percent of over 2,000 respondents did not support the idea of Stalin's monument, while only 9.6 percent supported it. The margin of error for the poll was reported at plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.