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Page last updated at 05:47 GMT, Sunday, 20 December 2009

Two killed in Georgian war monument demolition blast

The demolished war monument in Kutaisi, 19 December
A new parliamentary building is due to be built on the site

A woman and her young daughter have been killed in Georgia during the controversial demolition of a huge Soviet World War II memorial.

The demolition was being carried out to make space for a new parliamentary building and reports suggest the two victims were hit by flying concrete.

Prosecutors are considering whether safety standards were violated.

Russian officials and some Georgian opposition politicians criticised the decision to demolish the monument.

The girl, said to be aged seven or eight, and her mother were killed when workers set off an explosion to take down the memorial in Georgia's second-largest city Kutaisi, interior ministry spokesman Zura Gvenetadze told AFP news agency.

Another man was also injured and was being treated in hospital, he said.

Reuters news agency quotes local media as saying the two victims were killed by lumps of concrete sent hurtling into the courtyard of their home.

'Due care and protection'

"According to the preliminary information, the reason of the tragedy was a violation of security standards," said Georgian Prosecutor-General Murtaz Zodelava.

A view of the Kutaisi monument when it was intact (image from kutaisi.org website)
The concrete monument had stood 46m (150ft) high

He promised to prosecute anyone responsible for the incident.

Moscow has accused the Georgian authorities of "lack of respect" towards Georgians who fought in the Soviet army during the war, when the USSR was led by the dictator Josef Stalin, himself a Georgian.

The Russian foreign ministry denounced an "act of state vandalism which offends the feelings of every civilised person".

Russia and Georgia fought a brief war last year when, as a recent EU report concluded, Tbilisi tried to regain its breakaway territory of South Ossetia by force.

Among Georgian politicians criticising plans to demolish the monument last week was Georgy Akhvlediani of the opposition Christian Democrats who accused the government of "ignoring public opinion".

The Georgian foreign ministry said on Friday that the Kutaisi monument had been damaged in the 1990s and required restoration work.

"All the monuments and memorials here enjoy due care and protection on the part of the Georgian state and society," it added.

In September, Georgian MPs approved legislation to transfer plenary sessions of the country's parliament from the capital Tbilisi to Kutaisi.



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