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Ukrainian leader calls for 'cleansing' of communist symbols


KIEV, May 17 (RIA Novosti) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko called for communist statues to be removed and Soviet street names to be changed, in a speech on the country's Remembrance Day for the Victims of Political Repression.

The president attended a memorial service at the Bykivnia mass grave on the outskirts of Kiev, where up to 150,000 people executed in the Stalinist purges were buried.

"Ukraine must once and for all cleanse itself of the symbols of the regime that massacred millions of innocent people. There can be no justification for this - it is not a part of our history, as some cynical people would say, it is a part of the communist system, and symbols of murder," he said.

He said Ukraine must continue work to rename all towns and villages that still carry communist names, as well as removing statues and monuments, and called on parliament to consider changing the status of nationalists who fought for Ukrainian independence during the Soviet era.

In a veiled rebuke against Russia, which has refused to recognize Ukraine's Stalin-era famine as genocide, Yushchenko said: "Those who deny Holodomor and political repressions, those who justify Stalin, are raising their hand against our sanctity and our people."

The president laid flowers at the memorial to political prisoners, and joined a mourning procession to the Memorial Cross, led by Ukrainian church leaders. At the close of the service, a minute's silence was held.

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