Street Violence In Ukraine In Wake Of Communist Memorial March

KIEV, Ukraine -- Hundreds of diehard Communists demonstrating their loyalty to the Soviet Union sparked off street violence in two Ukrainian cities, witnesses said Tuesday.

An elderly communist holds a portrait of Soviet leader Josef Stalin as he takes part in the rally dedicated to the 89th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006

A peaceful gathering of several dozen Communists at a World War Two memorial in the centre of the western city of Lviv was met by a counter-demonstration by more than fifty Ukrainian nationalists, who initially used boat horns and chants to drown out Communist speakers.

When Communists in Lviv's central Stirisky Square attempted to hoist a red flag to mark the 89th anniversary of the founding of the Soviet Union, nationalists broke through police cordons to assault the flag-raisers with fists and boots.

Lviv police re-established order before either side was able to inflict serious injuries. There were no reports of arrests.

Police in the Ukrainian capital similarly experienced difficulty keeping the peace, with passers-by hurling smoke bombs and epithets at a group of some 500 Communists marching down Kiev's main street en route to the city's single statue of the Soviet Union's founder Vladimir Lenin.

A police cordon blocking roads and snarling midday traffic allowed the mostly elderly Communists to lay flowers at the monument without further incident.

Police presence in the centre of the city was heavy, clearly outnumbering the marchers with hundreds of law enforcers on the scene or waiting in reserve on nearby sidewalks or in buses.

Socialist demonstrations marking the anniversary of the Communist overthrow of Russia's government are annual events in most former Soviet republics.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians remain loyal to Communism, in no small part because the 1989 break-up of the Soviet Union forced millions of mostly retired Ukrainians into destitution overnight.

The Communist regime is, however, far from universally loved in Ukraine, as the country suffered millions of starvation deaths in the 1930s, when the Soviet regime used force to create collective farms.

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur