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Neighbors ask city council to reconsider Russian funded monument in Elizabeth City

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - Rick Boyd says he has nearly 500 signatures in support of a Russian funded monument that would be built in the city at the edge of the Pasquotank River.

Last week, city council members voted 5-3 to not support moving forward with the monument. Since then, Boyd has been asking his neighbors and other residents to support his petition for the city council to reconsider. "This monument is for us," he told News 3 on Thursday.

The monument would honor Project Zebra, a top secret project during World War II where 140 Soviet aviators trained with the United States in Elizabeth City as part of the Allied effort against Nazi Germany. In 1945, one of the planes crashed into the Pasquotank River, killing three Russians, a Canadian, and a Ukranian. "It's still a secret. It's out there, but people don't realize what Elizabeth City had to do with the war effort," Boyd said.

Last year, city council members were presented with the idea and initially decided to move forward. Russia would fund the monument and the city would pay for upgrades to the area around the monument.  The monument would pay tribute to "military brotherhood" and honor pilots from the US, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union.

Citing concerns about US-Russia relations and possible spying at the Coast Guard Base, city council members voted against allowing the monument to be built. "Some people said it would be dumb not to do it," said Councilman Johnnie Walton at the Feb. 26 meeting. "I said it would be dumber to do it."

City Manager Rich Olson says city council members can change their minds if they choose to do so. This week Retired General Robert Foglesong wrote a letter on behalf of the US-Russia Joint Commision on POW/MIA's to the mayor asking for the city council to reconsider. "I believe that the proposed memorial in Elizabeth City will be an opportunity for your fair city to be recognized on the world stage," he wrote.

Boyd said he'll be presenting his petition to the city council on Monday night. "This is just a chance for us to work together [with Russia] in a positive light with a beautiful [monument] to show that we've worked together in the past and we can work together in the future," he said.