Lenin statue survives bomb plot in rebel Ukraine

A Lenin statue escapes largely unharmed after plotters try to blow up the massive monument in Donetsk (AFP Photo/Odd Andersen)

Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - A Lenin statue escaped largely unharmed Wednesday after unidentified plotters tried to blow up the massive monument of the Soviet Union's founder in the de facto capital of rebel Ukraine.

Pro-Russian insurgency leaders quickly accused a "terrorist group" of trying to topple the symbol of communist power that has loomed large over the main square of the eastern industrial city of Donetsk for nearly 50 years.

A small part of the monument's foundation was damaged in the explosion while the bronze statute itself was left unscathed.

"According to our information, the explosives were planted by a terrorist group that had already committed similar crimes in Donetsk," rebel military spokesman Eduard Basurin told AFP.

No one claimed immediate responsibility and no arrests were made.

But the Donetsk insurgents' self-proclaimed interior ministry said it was treating the incident as a "terrorist act" and conducting a probe.

The blast follows a series of similar attempts to remove statues of Lenin -- of which many are planted in cities of the ex-Soviet Union -- from the war-shattered regions of the separatist provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk.

Pro-Moscow forces have been waging a 21-month war against government troops that has claimed more than 9,000 lives.

Kiev has banned all Soviet symbols as well as the Communist Party in a bid to reaffirm its committment to joining the European Union and possibly even the NATO military bloc.

Ukraine's 2014 pro-EU revolution was marked in Kiev by the highly symbolic toppling of another enormous Lenin monument two months before the flight to Russia of the country's Moscow-backed president and his closest aides.

Russia, whose leadership consistently denies any involvement in the pro-Moscow revolt, accuses its western neighbour of violating international law by banning the Communist Party.