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Activist who removed Banksy mural in Ukraine could be jailed, police say

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An activist who removed a mural painted by reclusive British street artist Banksy from a war-ravaged building in a Kyiv suburb faces up to a dozen years in prison for theft, Ukrainian authorities said in a statement. posted on Facebook.

The mural, showing a woman in a bathrobe wearing a gas mask and holding a fire extinguisher, garnered widespread attention when it appeared in the kyiv suburb of Hostomel in November. It was one of seven works of art painted by Banksy on war-ravaged buildings in and around Kyiv.

On December 2, a group of activists removed the mural, police said in a statement. Authorities arrested several people in connection with the kidnapping.

The statement, released by the Interior Ministry on Monday, said the mural was valued at more than 9 million Ukrainian hryvnia, the national currency, or about $245,000. He said an activist, described as the organizer, could face up to 12 years in prison for removing the mural.

While police have not identified the individual who could face jail time, one of the activists, Serhiy Dovhyi, previously said he was under criminal investigation for kidnapping the ‘artwork. Mr. Dovhyi said in an interview with The New York Times last month that he intended to auction it off and donate the proceeds to the Ukrainian military.

In the interview, he defended his actions, saying the artwork needed to be saved because the wall it was painted on needed to be demolished. He described the act of removing graffiti, which he documented in videos, as an additional act of performance art that could add to its value.

“Street art, unlike a work of art in the Louvre, does not belong to anyone,” Dovhyi told The Times.

Authorities argued, however, that the mural should have remained on the wall, to be part of a future memorial or building.

This is not the first time that the ownership of one of Banksy’s works has been disputed. In 2014, a Banksy painting appeared on a piece of plywood attached to the Broad Plain Boys Club in Bristol, England. Club owner Dennis Stinchcombe planned to auction the painting to raise money for the club, but the town stepped in and claimed they had the depiction of a couple kissing and looking at their cellphones. In a rare public gesture, Banksy penned a letter saying the art should be used to help the club.

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nytimes Eur

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