By Ivan Lyubysh-Kirdey
KYIV (Reuters) - Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday dismantled a huge Soviet-era monument in the centre of Kyiv meant to symbolise friendship between Russia and Ukraine, a response to Moscow's invasion, according to the city's mayor.
The eight-metre (27-ft) bronze statue depicted a Ukrainian and Russian worker on a plinth, holding aloft together a Soviet order of friendship. The statue was located underneath a giant titanium 'People's Friendship Arch', erected in 1982 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union.
"We now see what this "friendship" is - destruction of Ukrainian cities ... killing tens of thousands of peaceful people. I am convinced such a monument has an entirely different meaning now," Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko said.
Workmen started by removing one of the two bronze heads, which fell to the ground with a hollow clang.
As a crane lifted the monument off its moorings and gradually lowered it to the ground, a crowd of around 100 people cheered and shouted "Glory to Ukraine" and other slogans.
"Russia invaded Ukraine ... Can we be friends with Russia? What do you think? This is our worst enemy, that is why the monument to Russian-Ukrainian friendship doesn't make sense any more," said Serhiy Myrhorodsky, one of the designers.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24, has left thousands dead or injured, reduced towns and cities to rubble, and forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad.
Moscow calls its actions a "special operation" to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists.
"We should not have any relations with the nation of aggressors... no friendship, no relations, nothing," said Diana, a young woman, who did not give her full name.
Klitschko said the arch would remain in place but be renamed the Arch of Freedom of the Ukrainian People.
(Writing by Mark Porter and David Ljunggren, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)