Ukrainian authorities detained eight people over the theft of a mural painted by the pseudonymous street artist Banksy on a wall outside of Kyiv. The artwork, which thieves cut and removed from the side of a residential building, is in good condition and in the hands of authorities, reports the Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The stencil image depicts a woman dressed in a bathrobe with rollers in her hair, while also wearing a gas mask and clutching a fire extinguisher. In signature Bansky style, the majority of the image is black and white, but the fire extinguisher provides a splash of bright red.
Banksy painted the mural on a building in Hostomel, a town northwest of Kyiv that was damaged by Russian shelling. It went missing earlier this month, Ukrainian authorities say—though not for long.
“Several people were detained on the spot,” said Oleksiy Kuleba, the governor of Kyiv, in a post on the encrypted messaging service Telegram, per the AFP. Kyiv’s police chief, Andriy Nebytov, says the eight suspects are residents of Kyiv and Cherkasy, a city in central Ukraine.
Last month, Banksy confirmed to the Art Newspaper’s Anny Shaw that he is the artist behind seven murals that recently appeared on war-torn buildings across Ukraine. Many of them were located in places that have been extensively damaged since the Russian invasion earlier this year. In one mural, two children use a metal tank trap as a seesaw. Another depicts a young boy throwing a man to the floor in a judo match. (The man has been said to resemble Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, who holds a black belt in the sport.)
“These images are, after all, symbols of our struggle against the enemy,” Kuleba said in his post on Telegram addressing the attempted theft, according to BBC News’ Emily McGarvey. “These are stories about the support and solidarity of the entire civilized world with Ukraine.”
The Hostomel incident is not the first time that thieves targeted a Banksy artwork. In 2019, a group of robbers stole a Banksy that lived on an emergency door at Paris’ Bataclan theater. The mural, which depicts a sorrowful girl, was rendered as a tribute to the 90 people murdered in the 2015 terrorist attack on the venue. Eighteen months later, authorities recovered the work in rural Italy.
Kuleba said that all of Banksy’s murals in the Kyiv region are under police protection, per CNN’s Radina Gigova, Yulia Kesaieva and Sophie Tanno. Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information Policy are conducting “consultations regarding the storage and future fate” of the gas mask mural, Kuleba said.