A giant mural of one of the most popular memes of the Ukraine war has been painted on a building in Kyiv, causing outrage.
The Saint Javelin image, which depicts the Virgin Mary holding a Javelin missile, has become a symbol of resistance during the conflict in Eastern Europe.
The image was originally popularised in 2012 but resurfaced in February 2022 on Reddit and Twitter as Russia invaded Ukraine.
It has now been immortalised in a giant mural in the Ukrainian capital.
The Kailas-V art group is behind the mural and told Sky News the graffiti would “raise money for the restoration of Ukraine”
However, the mural was greeted by outrage from the Council of Churches, a worldwide Christian inter-church organisation.
“The walls of high-rise buildings in the capital are not a private gallery, but a public space, so when creating the latest art products, we ask you to comply with Ukrainian law, which requires due respect for religious beliefs of Ukrainian society,” the organisation said.
Kailas-V alleged that Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, has since vandalised the mural by painting over and covering its blue halo.
Yama Volk, who is the head of the group’s creative team, said: “In the process of creating the mural we received a lot of support from residents of the area.
“Everyone was happy but Klitschko decided to commit vandalism.”
Christian Borys, who manages the Saint Javelin website, said the “symbol means a hell of a lot to a lot of people now”.
“I understand that some religious people are offended by Saint Javelin, but I would suggest they read literally anything about the long, long history of religious icons used for moral support in war,” he tweeted.
As well as the mural, the meme has been printed on shirts, posters and mugs and sold on the Saint Javelin website, raising over $1m towards supporting Help Us Help, a charity that is focused on humanitarian aid and educational projects in Ukraine.