Demolished Georgian WWII memorial rebuilt in Moscow
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday inaugurated a new World War II memorial intended to replace a monument controversially demolished in Georgia by the country's pro-Western authorities.
The original Soviet-era monument in the city of Kutaisi was blown up in December last year on the orders of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a sworn enemy of Putin after the war between the ex-Soviet neighbours in 2008.
At the opening ceremony in Moscow's Victory Park, Putin again vented his anger at the Saakashvili administration, which he blamed for "tragic events" including the war and the destruction of the monument.
"This disgraceful act of state vandalism drew sharp disapproval and outrage around the world, primarily in Georgia itself because people cannot live with those who destroy memories of their heroes and turn their back on their own history," Putin said in comments reported by Interfax.
The ceremony was also attended by two Georgian opposition leaders, Nino Burjanadze and Zurab Nogaideli, who have been strongly criticised by the government in Tbilisi for establishing links with Moscow since the war.
"Of course there is the wish that this monument will represent the beginning of the restoration and normalisation of relations," Burjanadze said in comments reported by Interfax.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry has described the decision to open the replacement memorial as "provocative".
"It is an attempt to convince the public that Georgia allegedly did not appreciate those who died during World War II," foreign ministry spokeswoman Nino Kalandadze told a news conference on Monday.
The destruction of the original monument -- to make way for a new parliament building -- also caused controversy in Georgia because a woman and her seven-year-old daughter were killed when demolition workers set off explosives.
© 2010 AFP