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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Group Claims Credit For Destroying Statue

A previously unheard-of group took credit for blowing up a statue of Tsar Nicholas II over the weekend, saying in a statement published Wednesday it was demanding freedom for three suspects in attacks on other monuments to Russian royalty.

The 3-meter plaster statue of Nicholas outside Podolsk, 45 kilometers south of Moscow, was destroyed early Sunday morning. On Wednesday, the Kommersant Daily newspaper published a statement signed by the Revolutionary Partisan Group.

The statement claimed the group had planted the bomb to press for the freedom of three people arrested in the 1997 bombing of another statue of Nicholas and the attempted bombing of the statue of Peter the Great in central Moscow.

The statement said the group was continuing a campaign to destroy the symbols of tsarism "with the bombing of Nicholas, bloody executioner of workers and peasants."

"This action was conducted as a protest against the policies of the criminal regime and against the repression of revolutionaries who have been in Lefortovo prison for over a year."

The Kommersant article said the message was delivered to their office by a young man who said his name was Alexei. Alexei, who did not leave a last name, was quoted by the paper as also taking credit for several other attacks, including the bombing of the right-wing Limonka newspaper.

The Podolsk prosecutor, who is investigating the case, declined a telephone interview request. The Federal Security Service, which investigated the earlier cases, did not respond Wednesday to faxed questions.

A Moscow region police spokesman was skeptical of the statement's authenticity, but said police would investigate.

"What comment can I make? If they take responsibility, then we'll try to catch them," spokesman Gennady Melnik said. "Sometimes people or organizations who aren't involved try to build their image this way. We will consider this like people experienced in investigative work, and we'll check even this announcement."

The Podolsk statue was to be replaced by a bronze model next month. An 11-meter bronze monument to Nicholas by the same sculptor, Vyacheslav Klykov, was blown to pieces by a bomb in April 1997 in the village of Taininskoye near Moscow. A group called the Workers and Peasants Red Army claimed credit.

A group called the Revolutionary Military Council later claimed responsibility for that bombing, and for two other attacks in July 1997. Those were the placing of explosives on the Zurab Tsereteli monument to Peter the Great on the Moscow River, and for defacing a monument to Nicholas' family at the Vagankovskoye cemetery.

Nicholas, executed along with his family in 1918 by the Bolsheviks, remains a controversial figure and monuments to him have been shunted to out-of-the-way places like Podolsk and Taininskoye.