Catherine the Great statue removed by Ukraine under 'de-Russification' of war-ravaged country

A statue of former Russian empress Catherine the Great in the Ukrainian city of Odesa has been removed.

The monument to the founder of Odesa was originally put up in the city centre in 1900 but was then removed by the then Bolshevik rulers in 1920 before the local council restored it in 2007.

At the time, with Ukraine having been independent from the Soviet Union for a few years, the Odessans wanted to bring back the statue as an act of gratitude for the founding of the city.

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But on 20 November this year, authorities agreed to remove the structure after an online vote by Odesa residents.

It will be moved to the Odesa Fine Arts Museum from Ekaterininskaya Square in the Ukraine city.

Residents reacted with mixed feelings to the dismantling.

"I think that history is history. Of course, what they (Russians) have done to our Ukraine is not good, but history should be preserved whether it's good or bad," said local resident Valery.

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Following Russia's invasion of the country in February, Ukraine is speeding up efforts to erase Soviet and Russian influence from public spaces by pulling down monuments.

A campaign by Ukraine's leaders which previously focused on dismantling its Communist past has shifted to one of "de-Russification".

Catherine the Great was the last empress of Russia, ruling from 1762 to 1796.

She is considered the founder of Odesa because in 1794 she decreed its birth.

During her reign, she extended the borders of the Russian Empire to include areas of modern-day Ukraine, including Crimea.

More than 200,000 square miles of new territory was added to the Russian empire under Catherine's rule.