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Banksy mural theft ringleader could face 12 years in jail, Ukraine says

The Banksy mural in Borodyanka, Ukraine before it was stolen (PA)
The Banksy mural in Borodyanka, Ukraine before it was stolen (PA)

The ringleader of a group of alleged thieves that tried to steal a £200,000 Banksy mural in Ukraine could face up to 12 years behind bars, Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has said.

The suspect, who has not been named, was served a “notice of suspicion” after police detained the alleged thieves attempting to remove the street artwork.

It was taken from a house destroyed by Russian shelling last month.

Depicting a woman in a gas mask and dressing gown carrying a fire extinguisher, the mural is one of several created by the British street artists across Ukraine following Russia’s invasion last February.

According to police in Ukraine, the mural was removed by a group who intended to transport it from the site using wooden planks.

 (Reuters)
(Reuters)

But they were spotted at the scene in the city of Hostomel near Kyiv and the mural was retrieved, head of the Kyiv region military administration Oleksiy Kuleba said in a statement.

At the time of their arrests Kuleba said the images were “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.”

In a statement on Monday the Ministry said that the suspects had been arrested "thanks to the vigilance of locals, the police and other security forces."

The ministry also said that the subsequent investigation has valued the artwork at more than £20,000.

In November, Banksy unveiled a mural of a female gymnast balancing on a pile of rubble on the wall of a damaged building in the town of Borodianka. Another shows an old man having a bath.

Banksy, whose work can sell for millions of dollars on the art market, confirmed he had painted the mural and six others last month in places that were badly affected by heavy fighting after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.