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What happens to Kyiv's People's Friendship Arch, now that Russia has invaded?


I'm standing in central Kyiv near Maidan, the monument and public square that was so central to Ukraine's 2014 revolution. Off in the distance, there's a big titanium arch stretched over a park. It's a gift from Russia. Built in the early 1980s, it's meant to symbolize the friendship between Russia and Ukraine. Obviously, there is no friendship right now. After Russia invaded Crimea and eastern regions, activists painted a big crack across the top of the arch. And this week, with all the details uncovered about Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs, the relationship between the two countries feels much more than cracked. It feels destroyed.

NADIYA STASIUK: (Through interpreter) The military, what they did, I'm not really sure how quickly I will be able to forgive them or forget this thing.

DETROW: That's Nadiya Stasiuk, who stopped to talk to us. She's 45 and lives in Kyiv, but she's originally from Mariupol, a city in the south under a devastating siege by Russian troops. Her dad is still there, and she hasn't heard from him in a month. I asked Nadiya what she thinks should be done with the arch after the war.

STASIUK: (Through interpreter) I think we should keep it just for the sake of remembering that it had happened, you know? Yeah, we can destroy it, but what different it's going to be if we forget it all? So I believe, in my opinion, the best thing is to keep it and have it as a reminder.

DETROW: Not everyone feels as generous.

VLADIMIR ANATOLIEVICH: (Speaking Ukrainian).

DETROW: Vladimir Anatolievich is a senior lieutenant in the Ukrainian military. He's out with three of his fellow soldiers. And he has a very specific suggestion for what to do with the arch, but it's not radio appropriate.

ANATOLIEVICH: (Through interpreter) There can be no friendship at all. I'm pretty sure about it. The only thing I have left in me - it's pretty much hatred only. We're never going to be brothers again. At this stage, it's not possible that we're going to be even good neighbors.

DETROW: Anatolievich says he fought near the town of Bucha before it was liberated. He says he's glad the suburbs north of Kyiv are now in Ukrainian hands but that there's still a long way to go. And there are still more grim details emerging from those towns every day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
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