Four people who climbed a Moscow skyscraper on Wednesday and attached a Ukrainian flag to its spire have been charged with vandalism by Russian police and may face three years in jail.
The protesters also managed to paint half a massive yellow star at the top of the spire with blue paint, so it resembled the yellow-and-blue national colours of Ukraine.
After the four were arrested, maintenance crews quickly removed the flag from the Stalin-era building, which towers over the Moscow River and houses businesses and apartments, and were starting to remove the blue paint.
Moscow and Kiev are locked in a bitter stand-off: Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in March and Kiev says Russia is arming separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies this, and says Ukraine is persecuting Russian-speaking citizens.
A photograph on social media, which could not be verified independently, showed a man in a climbing harness, standing on top of the star, with the Ukrainian flag tied to one of its points. He appeared to be taking a “selfie”.
An official in the Moscow police press office said the suspects were two men and two women. No details on the circumstances of the arrest were immediately available.
Opinion polls show that most Russians back Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policy on Ukraine wholeheartedly, though a minority believes he is isolating Russia.
(Reporting by Ludmila Danilova; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Louise Ireland)
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