In apparent first, Ukraine axes Soviet name of eastern town
A frontline town in war-scarred eastern Ukraine will dump its Soviet-era name and adopt that of a local river, a decision aimed at cutting Kiev's ties to its communist past.
The local council of government-held Artemivsk decided Wednesday to call the industrial town of nearly 80,000 people Bakhmut, the title it originally bore when founded in the 16th century.
But Bakhmut suffered the same fate as many other Soviet cities in the bloody years that followed the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
Moscow decided in 1924 to rename the town in honour of local communist leader Fyodor Sergeyev, nicknamed Artyom.
The town sits some 50 kilometres (30 miles) northwest of pro-Russian rebels' de facto capital Donetsk, the focal point of 17 months of fighting that has claimed nearly 8,000 lives.
Local officials said Artemivsk will be the first town to be renamed in the conflict zone, in line with Ukraine's decision in May to ban most communist symbols and organisations.
Russia, which denies backing the eastern insurgents, denounced the decision and accused Kiev's pro-Western leadership of violating international law.
Under the May legislation, towns and cities must topple monuments to Soviet officials -- including the numerous statues of Lenin dotting the eastern European state -- and rename streets honouring communist figureheads.
© 2015 AFP