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Prague Removes Statue of Soviet-Era Commander, Angering Russia

The monument to World War II Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev lies on the ground after being removed from its pedestal in Prague on April 3.

A controversial memorial in Prague to a Soviet-era military commander has been removed from its pedestal, drawing a rebuke from Moscow and from Czech President Milos Zeman.

The bronze statue of Marshal Ivan Konev was dismantled on April 3 after a local assembly in the Prague 6 district voted in 2019 to remove it.

Konev is regarded as a hero in Russia for retaking much of Eastern Europe from Nazi German forces during World War II. But many Czechs view him an enforcer of Soviet rule after the war.

He led the Soviet troops that entered Prague after it had been liberated from the Nazis by resistance forces.

But he also commanded the troops that crushed the1956 anti-Soviet uprising in Hungary and helped build the Berlin Wall. Some historians say Konev also participated in planning the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

The Russian Embassy in Prague protested the removal of the monument on April 3 in a note sent to the Czech Foreign Ministry.

"The dismantlement of a monument to Marshal Ivan Konev will not be left without the Russian side's appropriate response," the Russian Embassy said.

President Zeman said local authorities "abused" a public-health lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Local officials say a new monument will be erected at the site to honor the Prague uprising resistance fighters who liberated the city from the Nazis at the end of World War II, days before Konev's Soviet troops arrived.

Konev's statue, erected in 1980 by Czechoslovakia's communist regime, will be transferred to a planned history museum.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Interfax