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A Statue to America and Russia’s WWII Ties Falls Foul of Modern-day Tensions

News Brief

A plan to build a statue in the United States commemorating Soviet pilots who trained there during World War II has been abandoned because of the current tensions with Russia over its alleged meddling in the 2016 elections.

Plans had been drawn up in conjunction with the Russian Ministry of Defense for a 25-ton, bronze statue to pay tribute to the hundreds of Soviet pilots who trained at a secret facility called “Project Zebra” in the U.S. state of North Carolina during the war.

But officials in the nearby town of Elizabeth City have now decided that it is no time to be building statues with the Russians.

“I realize it’s about honoring fallen heroes from World War II, and we have Americans who fought in World War II who are buried in Russia. But times were different then,” council member Anita Hummer told RFE / RL.

The council had previously approved plans for the 13-foot monument proposed by the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs, which was originally set up by presidents George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin in 1992.

But the council vote was back in early 2017, when the full scale of Russia’s role in interfering in the U.S. presidential election was only starting to come to light.

“Russia is known for hacking now. They’re experts at hacking,” said council member Johnnie Walton. He even raised the possibility that the monument could be used to hack the coast guard air station near Elizabeth City, the busiest in the country. “Then [you could have] the largest Coast Guard base [that] can’t help anybody because our computers have gone down, because Russia controls our mouse.”

One local resident said that “we’re in a cyberwar,” while the city mayor Bettie Parker explained that “I keep hearing now is not the time to deal with anything that’s coming from Russia.”