Anyone who has visited Moscow will recognise the Seven Sister high-rises commissioned by Joseph Stalin between 1947 and 1953 that jut out across the city’s skyline.
But commuters stuck in rush-hour traffic this morning may have noticed that the one on Kotelnicheskaya Embankment in downtown Moscow had been given a little bit of a touch-up.
In the latest act of solidarity with Ukraine in Russia, daredevils apparently defied both the authorities and any fear of falling 176 metres from the 32-floor structure and made it to the top of the tower overnight, painting the Soviet star at the top of the building (and hammer and sickle in the centre) in the Ukrainian blue and yellow colours, and attaching a Ukrainian flag.
It is not yet clear who was behind the stunt. Police have reportedly arrested four young Russians with climbing gear, all of them believed to be residents of Moscow and the surrounding region.
An unidentified Moscow police official told the Interfax news agency that the group used “an internal staircase” to reach the top floor of the building and then used “special equipment” to reach its spire.
Ukrainian troops carried out assaults on two of the largest cities held by pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, as diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict that has killed more than 2,000 and displaced another 300,000 continued. Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, is expected to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin next week for the first time in two months to discuss the crisis.
In a post on his Facebook page, Poroshenko lauded the stunt, which came just days before his country celebrates Independence Day on 24 August.
“On the eve of Independence Day we are starting an initiative called ‘Our Colours,’ which is devoted to the Ukrainian flag,” Poroshenko wrote.
“And it is symbolic that, on this day, our colours have been painted on what is perhaps the greatest skyscraper in Moscow. I urge Ukrainians throughout the world, wherever they are, on the eve of the anniversary of our independence, to decorate their homes, offices, and cars in our national colours.”
A video posted by various Russian media outlets purports to show members of the group parachuting down from the height of the Stalin-era building after daybreak.
An unidentified police official told the Itar-Tass agency that the group claims they were simply thrill seekers and had nothing to do with the stunt. “The two young men and two girls say they jumped from a high building with parachutes. They say they didn’t hoist any flag and didn’t paint the flag,” the official said.
The incident marks the latest in a series of acts by Russians in solidarity with Kiev, despite the patriotic fervour that accompanied Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
Some opposition activists have taken to singing the Ukrainian national anthem when they are arrested and last week, Andrei Makarevich, frontman for the popular band “Mashina Vremeni” (Time Machine) traveled to eastern Ukraine where he performed for internally displaced children in an area controlled by Ukraine’s army, a move that saw him branded as a “traitor” by Russian lawmakers and pro-establishment musicians.
Determined to preserve the pro-Russian revolt in eastern Ukraine, Russia reinforced what Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion on Wednesday, sending armored troops across the border as it expanded the conflict to a new section of Ukrainian territory.
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Ukraine's Security Service said Tuesday that 10 Russian soldiers had been detained in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, amid simmering tensions over the conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels.
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