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Group suspected of trying to steal Banksy mural in Ukraine arrested

Radina Gigova, Yulia Kesaieva and Sophie Tanno, CNN

Authorities in Ukraine have detained a group of people who allegedly tried to steal a mural by renowned graffiti artist Banksy from the wall of a building that was damaged by Russian shelling.

The mural, which shows a woman wearing a gas mask and carrying a fire extinguisher, was “ruthlessly cut off by attackers” in the town of Hostomel, northwest of the capital Kyiv on Friday, the head of the Kyiv Police Department, Andrey Nebitov, said Saturday in a statement on Telegram.

“A group of people dismantled the painting of the world-famous artist, tried to transport it using wooden boards and polyethylene, but was exposed by police and security forces,” Nebitov said.

As part of the investigation, “an art expert examination” will be conducted on the mural and authorities will make a decision what charges to file against the suspected attackers, Nebitov said.

On Friday, the head of the Kyiv region military administration, Oleksii Kuleba, said the suspects were “detained on the spot” and that the mural is undamaged.

“I want to emphasize that Banksy’s works in the Kyiv region are under protection from the police,” Kuleba said on his Telegram channel.

“After all, these images are a symbol of our struggle against the enemy. These are the stories about the support and solidarity of the entire civilized world with Ukraine. Let’s do everything to preserve the works of street art as a symbol of our future Victory,” he said.

Kyiv regional authorities, the local community and representatives from Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information Policy are conducting “consultations regarding the storage and future fate of the mural,” Kuleba said.

The mural in Hostomel is one of several works created by the anonymous artist in different cities in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

Banksy unveiled a mural of a female gymnast balancing on a pile of rubble on a building damaged by Russian shelling in the liberated town of Borodianka on November 11. The graffiti artist posted three images of the piece on social media, with a simple caption reading “Borodyanka, Ukraine,” using an alternative spelling for the town’s name.

Borodianka was hit particularly hard by Russian airstrikes at the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February, with many buildings reduced to piles of rubble by long-range attacks.

Three days later, on November 14, the street artist confirmed to The Art Newspaper that he had completed seven new works in Ukraine in total, located in the capital and other cities in the region.

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