MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) – The Tagansky District Court in Moscow ruled that four young people be placed under house arrest, after they were charged with hanging a Ukrainian flag on the star of one of Moscow’s iconic historical buildings and painting it blue.
The four alleged wrongdoers claim that the incident reflected an “unfortunate juxtaposition of circumstances”. They insist that they were practicing skydiving and jumped from the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment building, while someone hung the flag and painted the star.
The suspects – Alexey Shirokozhuhov, Alexander Pogrebov, Evgenia Korotkova and Anna Lepeshkina - were arrested on Wednesday, immediately following the incident. They were brought to court for a preliminary hearing the next day. Due to the suspects being young and registered in Moscow, the judges decided to put them under house arrest instead of taking them into custody. Initially they were charged with “vandalism”, which is punishable by up to three years in prison. However, the conviction was later changed to “hooliganism”, which is considered a more serious crime and carries with it a maximum prison sentence of seven years.
“According to preliminary data, strangers entered the top of the building using the interior stairs; after that, they fastened the [flag] to the skyscraper’s spire with the help of special equipment”, one of NTV’s sources reports. The intruders also painted the top of the building’s golden star decoration half-blue, so that it resembled the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The star has since been brought back to its original condition.
The building is one of Moscow’s historical towers often referred to as the Seven Sisters. They remain one of Moscow’s main tourist attractions and are considered the city’s heritage asset. Repairing and restoring cultural monuments is an expensive and labor-intensive process.
The alleged vandals will remain under house arrest until October 19. The court has mandated that they are not allowed to use any means of communication except in the case of an emergency or to contact the police. The suspects haven’t pled guilty and have expressed their willingness to assist in the investigation.