Russia demands Ukraine punish Victory Day attackers

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Russia pressed Ukraine on Tuesday to bring attackers to justice after dozens of nationalists clashed with pro-Russian demonstrators at Victory Day celebrations in the west of the ex-Soviet state.

As Russia and eastern Ukraine celebrated the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany on Monday, several dozen young nationalists in Lviv harassed residents laying flowers at a war memorial and desecrated a wreath.

"Festive celebrations in Lviv dedicated to the 66th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War have been darkened by a series of unacceptable incidents," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

"We expect that local security officials will find and duly punish those responsible and that such situations are excluded from the practice of bilateral relations in the future," the foreign ministry said, calling the anti-Russian demonstrators "extremist-minded nationalist forces."

Lviv Governor Mykhailo Tsymbalyuk told reporters earlier in the day he had submitted his resignation following Monday's incident. It remains unclear if the president's office will accept it.

The Soviet victory in World War II remains a deeply controversial issue in Ukraine, which is torn between nationalists keen to promote the country's independent history and pro-Moscow factions who are much more enthusiastic about its Soviet past.

Since coming to power last year on pledges to improve ties with Moscow, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has sought to tone down nationalist-tinged policies of his predecessor Viktor Yushchenko.

© 2011 AFP

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