September 10, 2015 / 3:20 PM / 2 years ago

Russian court hands out tough jail term for Ukrainian flag stunt

Base jumper Vladimir Podrezov talks to police from a defendants' cage during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

MOSCOW, Sep 10 (Reuters) - A Russian court on Thursday convicted a Ukrainian man of helping try to paint his country’s national flag on a Moscow skyscraper as an act of protest against the Kremlin’s foreign policy and sentenced him to two years and three months in jail.

The incident, in August last year, attracted international attention because it was a rare example of protest in the heart of the Russian capital against President Vladimir Putin’s policies in Ukraine.

A group of protesters succeeded in painting half a massive yellow star on the spire of a Stalin-era skyscraper on the banks of the Moscow river so that it resembled the yellow and blue national colors of Ukraine.

The court on Thursday found Vladimir Podrezov, a Ukrainian “roofer” -- a Russian term for an extreme urban sportsman -- guilty of being an accomplice to vandalism.

However, it cleared four others, who had also been on the roof at the same time, of the same offence, saying there were doubts about their guilt. It convicted them of the less serious offence of hooliganism instead, letting them walk free.

All five had protested their innocence, though Podrezov had admitted helping another roof-climber, Grigory Mustang, onto the spire. However, he said he hadn’t known of the flag plan.

Mustang, a celebrity stunt man living in Ukraine, has admitted to painting the flag, saying it was an art performance dedicated to the defenders of his homeland.

Russia has issued an international warrant for his arrest.

Reporting by Jason Bush; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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