VILNIUS – Vilnius' municipality has started removing the statues of Soviet World War Two soldiers from the capital's Antakalnis Cemetery, Mayor Remigijus Simasius said on Wednesday, adding that the work may take up to three weeks to complete.
"The Antakalnis cemetery stelae will not collapse as expressively as Riga's largest Soviet monument did recently," the mayor told BNS. "As planned, the statues will be taken down in an orderly manner, in separate segments, which may take up to three weeks."
"It is regrettable that the work had to be delayed because of the United Nations Human Rights Committee's decision, but the day has dawned," he added.
Municipal officials said earlier that the sculptures might be removed this week.
The Justice Ministry said last week that the UNHRC had left in place its interim measures, thus formally barring Vilnius' authorities from removing the statues for the time being.
The committee imposed the interim measures after it received a petition signed by several individuals calling themselves "ethnic Russians", including Kazimieras Juraitis, a man who went to meet with the Belarusian authorities earlier this year, and Dmitrij Glazkov, Tatiana Brandt, and Anastasija Brandt.
The statues are being removed despite the UNHRC decision. The Interior Ministry and municipal officials say that the committee was misled by the arguments of the petitioners who claim that the monument will be desecrated and the nearby remains reburied.
The municipality plans to transfer the sculptures to the National Museum of Lithuania after they are removed.