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A concrete obelisk topped by Soviet stars that was the centerpiece of a monument commemorating the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany was torn down on Thursday in Latvia’s capital – the latest in a series of Soviet monuments brought down after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Heavy machinery was spotted behind a green privacy fence at the foot of the 260ft obelisk shortly before it was pulled down. The column, which had stood like a high-rise in downtown Riga, crashed into a nearby pond, causing a huge splash at Victory Park.

A Latvian media outlet broadcast the event live as onlookers, some with Latvian flags wrapped around their shoulders, cheered and applauded.

The obelisk, made up of five spires with three Soviet stars at the top, stood between two groups of statues – a band of three Red Army soldiers and on the other side a woman representing the “Motherland” with her arms held high.

The monument was built in 1985 while Latvia was still part of the Soviet Union. It has stirred controversy since Latvia regained independence in 1991 and eventually became a Nato and European Union member.

On Twitter, Latvia’s foreign minister said by taking down the monument, Latvia was “closing another painful page of the history and looking for better future”.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February has prompted authorities in several eastern European countries to remove symbols from their communist eras.

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