Ukrainian daredevil Mustang Wanted dipped a toe into the dangerous waters of the Russia – Ukraine conflict last week with possibly his most outrageous and provocative stunt yet.
The urban climber scaled the iconic Kotelnicheskaya Embankment block of flats in the centre of Moscow and planted a Ukrainian flag on the golden star at the top.
Not only that, he also took a bucket of blue paint up with him and tipped it over the the star, turning it blue and yellow – the colours of the Ukrainian flag.
“He dedicated the stunt to ‘all the guys defending my motherland right now’, saying ‘glory to Ukraine.’”
The stunt was spotted by the local Russian police, who promptly arrested the wrong people. A group of four apparently innocent base-jumpers had been planning to scale the building the same evening and happened to be in the area.
In fairness to the police, they probably looked like pretty prime suspects given they were carrying climbing gear.
But their arrest – and subsequent detention for the crime of “hooliganism”, which carries a maximum sentence of 7 years – has now become something of a cause celebre in the heated atmosphere of the proxy war between Russia and Ukraine.
Friends of the four have launched an online campaign to get them let off the charges and several Russian journalists (including former BBC man Leonid Ragozin, below) have compared them to Pussy Riot – the punk band jailed for protesting against Putin in 2012.
These anti-war activists in Moscow are at least as cool as Pussy Riot. All four may be locked up for years. pic.twitter.com/9PLd9vw2ZH
— Leonid Ragozin (@leonidragozin) August 21, 2014
One of the members of Pussy Riot Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, has also weighed into the debate on Twitter. This reads: “Arresting people for walking past a protest. Of course that’s a victory!”
Домашний арест за акцию, мимо которой ты проходил, это, конечно, победа.
— Надя Толоконникова (@tolokno) August 21, 2014
Meanwhile Mustang Wanted, on hearing of the innocents’ arrest, posted a defiant statement on Facebook claiming the stunt.
Alongside a selfie stood on top of the star, he wrote: “I’m the one who climbed to the rooftop of the skyscraper on Kotelnicheskaya Embankment. I did it in a rush of a sincere patriotic feelings.”
“I repainted the star in the colours of my native Ukrainian flag, and then also raised the flag of independent Ukraine. I have all the photo evidence of this.”
His confession, he claimed was “aimed at the liberation of the innocent Russian civilians arrested for hooliganism”. They risked, he said mockingly, becoming “victims of a Russian justice system well-known for its fairness”.
His witheringly sarcastic statement also praised Russia for having “the most fair courts in the world” before signing off by dedicating the stunt to “all the guys defending my motherland right now” and saying “glory to Ukraine.”
Given that he’s actually wanted, this may be Mustang’s last trip to Moscow for a while…
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