The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Protesters climbed iconic Moscow skyscraper, planted Ukrainian flag

A worker takes a selfie before removing a Ukrainian flag attached by protesters atop a Stalin-era skyscraper in Moscow on Wednesday. (Ilya Varlamov/Associated Press)

Correction: In an earlier version of this post, the headline referred to protesters taking a selfie after planting a Ukrainian flag atop a Moscow skyscraper. The selfie was actually taken by Russian workers who dismantled the pro-Ukrainian display.

For about three hours Wednesday morning, the Ukrainian flag was flying high over Russia’s capital.

Protesters fastened a blue-and-yellow banner to the Soviet star atop the spire of one of Moscow’s Stalin-era “Seven Sisters” skyscrapers on the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment about a mile from the Kremlin.

They also painted the top half of the gold-colored star blue, so that the finial resembled the Ukrainian flag.

The unlikely sight in Moscow, which is locked in a war of words, sanctions and some say military might with Kiev over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, was the work of a four-person team of locals – two men and two women, officials told Russian media – who are now being charged with vandalism, a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.

Police have not released their identities – but an unnamed official cited by Russian news service Interfax explained they had likely scaled the 580-foot spire with “special equipment” after taking the stairs to the top floor.

Spire climbing has become somewhat of an extreme sport in Moscow, where a few years ago, daredevil climbers began posting videos of themselves climbing up to the top of the spires of the city’s famous Soviet-era skyscrapers with minimal, if any, safety gear.

A video posted on the Web site of Russian television station LifeNews also showed what they said was footage of one of the protesters parachuting off the building into a lot below.

One of the parachuters who was detained later told LifeNews that it was just a coincidence that he happened to be jumping off the building when the Ukrainian flag-taggers were staging their protest.

Authorities apprehended the protesters, and workers later dismantled and painted over their display of pro-Ukrainian solidarity — though not before snapping a selfie.

While Russian authorities weren’t amused by the incident, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko applauded the gesture as symbolic and encouraged Ukrainians all over the world to emulate the example in honor of Ukrainian Independence Day on Sunday. The holiday marks Ukraine’s 1991 declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.