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Kyiv will dismantle a Soviet-era monument and rename streets linked to Russia

People walk in a city park around a Soviet-era monument in Kyiv, Ukraine, in June 2020.
People walk in a city park around a Soviet-era monument to Ukraine and Russia's friendship in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, June. 23, 2020. A crack on the arch made by Human Rights activists on a Ukrainian artist' project a few years ago has drawn attention to relations between the two neighboring countries, which have been badly damaged since the Kremlin-backed war conflict in Ukraine' east. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

For decades, a large titanium arch has stood in central Kyiv, towering over a sculpture of two men holding up a medal representing the Soviet Union's Order of Friendship of Peoples.

The rainbow-shaped installation is called the People's Friendship Arch and was gifted to Ukraine by the Soviet government in 1982 as a symbol of the relationship between the Russia and Ukraine.

The arch has become increasingly controversial over the years, as tensions have risen. After Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, for example, activists painted a large crack across the top. And now, as Russia wages all-out war in Ukraine, locals are split on what to do with it.

When NPR's Scott Detrow spoke to Kyiv residents earlier this month about what should happen to the arch, one wanted it preserved as a reminder of the war while another offered a suggestion that wasn't exactly fit for the airwaves.

On Monday, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced that a decision had been made.

He said that the statue of the men will be dismantled but that the arch will remain standing, with some alterations: It will be renamed and highlighted with the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

"This week we will dismantle a bronze sculpture of two workers, erected in 1982 'to commemorate the reunification of Ukraine with Russia,' " Klitschko said, according to CNN. "The eight meters of metal of the so-called 'friendship of two peoples' will be removed from the center of Kyiv."

The dismantling of the sculpture is scheduled to finish by the end of Tuesday, he said.

The Friendship Arch isn't the only Kyiv monument that officials are hoping to reclaim these days.

On Monday, the secretary of the Kyiv City Council told a Ukrainian newspaper that it will change the names of streets linked to Russia and Belarus. Volodymyr Bondarenko said there are 279 streets and 60 objects, such as memorials and plaques, that fit the bill in Kyiv, according to Polish news site TVP World.

He said city residents can submit suggestions for streets to be renamed and objects to be removed by May 1, although it will take longer for the signs with street names to actually be removed as "this is not the time for such actions."

"No one intends to take books of Russian classical authors down from library shelves or forbid people to attend concerts of Rachmaninoff," he said. "But the matter of street names and memorials needs to be brought to a close."

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

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