By Tom Goldstone, Kristina Sgueglia and Zenebou Sylla, CNN
A Russian Orthodox cathedral in New York appears to have been defaced with red paint, following a similar incident in which the Russian consulate was vandalized with red spray paint.
The two vandalism incidents come after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning stages of annexation of parts of Ukraine.
An eyewitness told CNN that they saw a person in a face mask splash red paint on the steps of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral on New York’s Upper East Side late Friday night.
The cathedral’s spokesperson, Abbot Nicodemus, also confirmed the vandalism to CNN.
Remnants of the paint could be seen Saturday morning, after the eyewitness observed a woman working to scrub it away.
“We sincerely do not understand those individuals that allow themselves acts of vandalism in relation to our cathedral. We pray for them,” Nicodemus said n a statement to CNN. “We want them to realize that the Russian Orthodox Church in the USA carries out important spiritual and peacemaking activities here, and we are open to all people, regardless of their nationality and political beliefs.”
The New York Police Department said it was not aware of or investigating this incident.
The NYPD previously told CNN it was investigating the red graffiti on the Russian consulate building as a “possible bias incident.” There were no updates in that investigation.
The spokesperson told CNN that Friday’s incident is the third case of vandalism since the beginning of the year in which the cathedral has been marked with paint or written with “insulting” inscriptions.
In addition, “insulting” calls and emails have been received by the cathedral, Nicodemus said, adding that some include direct threats against the clergy and parishioners.
Saint Nicholas Cathedral said it is “compelled to turn such messages to the police,” said Nicodemus. “We are grateful to the law enforcement agencies of New York for their prompt response to our messages and their constant support.”
The cathedral said that since February, its parishioners have been actively involved in collecting financial and humanitarian assistance for the victims of the armed conflict in Ukraine.
Half of the parishioners of the cathedral are Ukrainian, Nicodemus said
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CNN’s Zoe Sottile contributed to this report.