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(AFP) – Extremists blew up a controversial monument to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin on New Year’s night in southeastern Ukraine in an “act of terror”, the local Communist Party said on Saturday.

The bust in the city of Zaporizhia, unveiled this May, caused a heated controversy in Ukraine which is still split between its nationalist west and the more Russian orientated east which fondly remembers the Soviet past.

“A criminal broke into the grounds of the Communist Party regional headquarters, and laid an explosive charge which detonated after a few minutes,” the Communist Party said.

“The statue of Stalin was destroyed as a result of the blast,” the Communists said in a statement. It said that the explosion inflicted serious damage on the building but there were no casualties.

Stalin is a hate figure for many in Ukraine who blame him for intentionally allowing the deaths of millions of Ukrainians in a 1930s famine known as the Holodomor that nationalists regard as a genocide.