Ukraine's Odesa votes to remove Catherine the Great statue
By Dan Peleschuk
KYIV (Reuters) - The city council in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa has voted to remove and relocate a monument to Empress Catherine the Great of Russia that had recently been daubed with red paint at least twice.
The statue to the city's founder, which towers over a central square, has been vandalised repeatedly since the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine that has prompted many Ukrainians to reject their country's historical ties to Moscow.
The city council announced the decision to remove the statue on its website on Wednesday. Local lawmakers had also voted to remove and relocate a monument to an 18th century Russian general, Alexander Suvorov.
A slim majority of Odesa residents had already voted - in an online poll organised by city authorities - to remove the statue to Catherine the Great, who was empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796.
Several petitions had also been submitted to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy calling for the statue to be removed, but only local authorities were legally empowered to make the decision.
The statue, which is formally known as the Monument to the Founders of Odesa and features likenesses of several other tsarist-era figures, will be relocated to a temporary storage space and then to a museum, media outlet Suspilne reported.
Founded by Catherine the Great in the late 18th century, Odesa was a strategic city for Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union but had long been known as a cultural melting pot.
Since Ukraine gained independence in 1991, its port has served as an important part of the Ukrainian economy and has been hit repeatedly during Russia's war on Ukraine.
First erected in 1900, the statue to Cetherine the Great was dismantled in 1920 under Soviet rule but restored by Ukrainian authorities in 2007.
Since Moscow's invasion, Ukrainian authorities have been removing monuments associated with Russia and renamed some streets linked with Russia under a process of "derussification".
(Reporting by Dan Peleschuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)