Russian ambassador fails to convince Šiauliai not to remove Soviet monument

Alexander Udaltsov, Russian Ambassador

Russia's ambassador to Lithuania has failed to convince the local government of Šiauliai to leave a Soviet-era monument on the city's central square.

Šiauliai Mayor Artūras Visockas says that Alexander Udaltsov, who paid a visit to him on Wednesday, expressed his wish that the obelisk to Soviet soldiers should not be removed from the Resurrection Square, which is situated next to the Cathedral and a military cemetery, during the reconstruction of the city's central square.

"The ambassador's key aim was to say that the overground part of the cemetery, the so-called pedestal, should be left untouched. However, our square revamping plan calls for changing all this," the mayor said.

"I spoke on the same day to the head of the Cultural Heritage Department, Diana Varnaitė, and to the local culture protection official. They assured me that this is not heritage and we can go ahead with our plans," he said.

An inscription on the Soviet-era obelisk reads in Lithuanian and Russian that it is dedicated to "Soviet soldiers who died in the 1941-1945 war."

The mayor notes that this is "unfair" because the Soviet Army soldiers were not the only ones buried in this cemetery.

He expects that the reconstruction project will be completed within two years. Plans call for erecting a monument to freedom on an adjacent square in the future.

The Russian embassy said in a press release issued after Udaltsov's meeting with the mayor in Šiauliai that the ambassador "voiced his disapproval of the reconstruction plans that envisage destroying the monument and called on the city's government to look for solutions."

Visockas stressed that the tombstones with the soldiers' names would not be removed.

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