The powerful image of a woman in a gas mask and dressing gown using a fire extinguisher on the side of the scorched building was described as a “symbol of victory” for the Ukrainian people.
But a group were stopped after cutting it away from the battle-scarred wall where it was painted, the governor of Kyiv region said on Friday.
They were spotted at the scene in the city of Hostomel near Kyiv and the mural was retrieved, Oleksiy Kuleba said in a statement.
The image was still intact and police were protecting it, he added.
“These images are, after all, symbols of our struggle against the enemy. We’ll do everything to preserve these works of street art as a symbol of our victory,” he said.
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.
Police published images of the yellow wall in Hostomel, with a large patch cut all the way back to the brickwork. A number of people were arrested at the scene, they said.
The attempted theft came as Russian forces continued to invest a large part of their overall firepower on a 15-km long frontline around a town in Donetsk, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has warned.
In its latest intelligence update, the MoD said the campaign to capture the town of Bakhmut has been “disproportionately costly relative to the gains”.
The update said: “Russia’s plan is likely to encircle the town with tactical advances to the north and south.
“In recent days, Russia has likely made small advances on the southern axis of this assault, where it is seeking to consolidate limited bridgeheads to the west of the boggy ground around the minor Bakhmutka River.”