WATCH: The unannounced, late-night removal of the statue apparently was aimed at avoiding possible protests by locals, who were strongly against its removal. (Video by RFE/RL's Georgian Service)
Authorities in Georgia have removed a towering statue of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin from the central square of his hometown of Gori.
The 6-meter-high statue was removed in the dead of the night in an unannounced operation. Georgian media said police tried to prevent journalists from filming the process, beating some of them.
Local officials said the statue is to be moved to the courtyard of a museum dedicated to Stalin and replaced on the main square by a monument to victims of Georgia's 2008 war with Russia.
Outward signs of Stalin's personality cult were removed after his death in 1953 across Georgia and the rest of the Soviet Union, but many is his hometown remain proud of him.
The Gori statue, which was erected one year before his death, was one of the few monuments to Stalin still standing anywhere.
Gori was the hardest-hit Georgian city in the five-day war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, with bombs hitting the main square near the statue.compiled from agency reports