The Russian consulate in New York has been vandalized with red spray paint, in an apparent protest against Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Officers said they responded to an emergency call just after 1.30am on Friday reporting that paint had been sprayed across the facade of the consulate on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

A police spokesperson said the investigation is ongoing into the potential “bias incident” and no arrests have been made.

Rosie Morse, a retiree who lives in the neighborhood near the consulate, said the spray paint “looks like artwork”.

“But the meaning is to express our feeling about Putin, and I can’t say that I don’t agree,” she told Agence France-Presse.

“It’s vandalism but it is the expression of how people in New York are realizing Putin is killing people,” said another bystander, Romen Eaulin.

The bright red paint appeared hours before the Russian president announced he was annexing four Russian-controlled territories in Ukraine.

Friday also saw one of the worst attacks against civilians in months after shelling by Moscow forces killed at least 30 people in Ukraine’s southern region of Zaporizhzhia.

Surveillance camera footage shows a hooded and masked figure spraying the consulate building in the early morning. No guards appeared to surround the building.

Photos of the vandalized consulate posted online have prompted a slew of responses.

One user appeared to poke fun at the recent referendums which the west has condemned as a sham, writing, “No, no. We held a referendum that determined the building was always covered in red paint. Nothing to see here.”

Someone else wrote: “We should annex 1/3 of it and claim the staff wanted us to denazify it,” in apparent reference to Putin’s claims to “denazify” Ukraine.

Benjamin Wittes, a legal journalist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, warned against such behavior, tweeting: “Folks, don’t do this. I understand the impulse. Really do. But we have diplomats in Russia. And protecting them requires that we respect the Vienna Convention too. Please keep your protests on the right side of the law, if only so our people over there can claim law’s protection.”

Source: The Guardian