Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 16:58 UK

Russia's massive leaning statue

By Richard Galpin
BBC News, Moscow

The huge Motherland statue in Volgograd is leaning over by up to 20cm (8in).

One of Russia's most important war memorials, a huge statue towering over the southern city of Volgograd, is in danger of collapsing, an official says.

The Motherland statue is leaning at such a precarious angle that many people are scared of going near it.

Rising water levels are causing the foundations of the memorial to subside.

The news comes at an embarrassing time, as Russia prepares for Victory Day on Saturday, marking the Soviet Union's defeat of the Nazis in World War II.

Funds needed

When it was completed in the late 1960s, the Motherland statue was the largest in the world.

Made of concrete, it stands 85 metres (300 ft) high and weighs around 8,000 tons.

It commemorates the Battle of Stalingrad, when the Soviet army eventually managed to defeat the invading German forces in what is widely seen as a turning point in World War II.

The epic battle, which began in the summer of 1942 and caused almost two million casualties, has become a defining moment in Russian history and it remains a source of intense pride for the country.

But now the huge statue has come perilously close to toppling over.

It is not fixed to its foundations - instead it is held in place by its own weight. And the rising water table is causing the foundations to subside.

An official, who did not wish to give her name, told us the statue was already listing by around 20 cm (8 inches). If it tilts over just a few centimetres more, it will probably collapse.

According to the official, the problem is getting worse more quickly than they had thought and they need more than $7m (£5m) to fix it.

But she had little hope they would be able to raise the money given the current economic crisis.

The local security services have been quoted as saying that money provided by the government in the past to restore the statue to its rightful position was stolen.

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