MOSCOW -- After several false starts and some grumbling from locals, a prominent statue of a gun-toting Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of one of the world's most ubiquitous weapons of war, is set to be unveiled in an official ceremony in the Russian capital on September 19.
The 7.5-meter metal likeness -- still covered in plastic -- features Kalashnikov cradling his eponymous AK-47 assault rifle and looking west down the Garden Ring that loops around central Moscow.
The statue was hoisted onto its plinth over the weekend beside a new business center.
A second metalwork sculpture, of St. George slaying a dragon with a spear tipped with a rifle sight with AK-47 written on it, stands nearby.
The Kalashnikov statues' sculptor, Salavat Shcherbakov, is also the artist behind a towering 17-meter statue of Prince Vladimir the Great that was erected -- amid controversy -- outside the Kremlin in November at a ceremony attended by President Vladimir Putin.
Shcherbakov told TASS news agency that the rifle was added to his original plan for the Kalashnikov statue because people might not recognize him without his signature contribution to the Soviet Army.
“So we dared to include the rifle after all,” Shcherbakov said.
Other prominent statues in the vicinity include statues to poets Alexander Pushkin and Vladimir Mayakovsky.
Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky presented plans to Putin for the Kalashnikov statue in September 2016 during a tour of the Kalashnikov arms manufacturer headquartered in Izhevsk, the capital of the republic of Udmurtia.
The project was backed by the Russian Military-Historic Society that is chaired by Medinsky and Rostec, the state weapons and technology conglomerate run by powerful Putin ally Sergei Chemezov.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, Medinsky, Chemezov, and Kalashnikov's daughter, Yelena Kalashnikova, were expected to attend the unveiling ceremony on September 19.
The statue was originally meant to be unveiled on January 21, marking the day in 1948 when Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Ustinov signed a decree ordering the construction of an experimental batch of Kalashnikov rifles.
But the ceremony was moved because of inclement weather to May 8, ahead of Victory Day, and then to September 19, Gunmaker Day.
Not everyone is on board with the project.
Veronika Dolina, a local resident, posted a photograph of an apparent protester at the still-shrouded Kalashnikov statue holding a sign that said, “No to weapons, no to war.” She wrote: “Man at Kalashnikov pedestal. Humble hero, no posing.”
Resident Natalya Seina told 360, a local media outlet, "This is not artistic, to put it mildly. This is trash. It’s loathsome.” She also noted how Kalashnikov had lived his life in Izhevsk, not Moscow, unlike playwright Anton Chekhov and poet Aleksandr Pleshchev. "These are probably more worthy people than the creator of a rifle."
There are estimated to be as many as 200 million Kalashnikov rifles around the world -- prompting one expert to label it "the Coca-Cola of small arms" -- and they are manufactured in dozens of countries.
Mikhail Kalashnikov died in 2013 at the age of 94.