Red Bull Drift Cars Confiscated After Unauthorized Promo Shoot at Ukrainian Cathedral

The Saint Sophia Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that Red Bull apparently didn't have permission to film at.

Ukrainian officials are fuming after Red Bull’s motorsport arm allegedly ignored their ruling and drifted around the historic Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.

On the morning of August 10, those who commuted through Sofievskaya Square were treated to a show from world championship drifter Conor Shanahan in his S15 Nissan and three-time Ukraine champion Aleksandr Grinchuk in a 350Z. As Jalopnik reports, the pair drifted in tandem around the square typically reserved for pedestrian traffic, while onlookers had mixed bouts of amazement, confusion and disgust.

via Kyiv City Prosecutor’s Office

According to Kyiv’s deputy mayor Kostiantyn Usov, the stunt was organized by Red Bull. The energy drink company sought permission for the filming but was then denied. As proof, Usov posted a letter on Facebook that the city received from Red Bull one week prior to the filming, which requested permission to drift near the cathedral on August 10. A subsequent denial letter from the Kyivrada—Kyiv’s City Council—cited concerns of man-made impact on the historical site. However, it specifically mentioned the proposed event as taking place on August 11; it isn’t immediately clear why different dates are disclosed, or if that played a part in the confusion from either party.

“It’s not just an intolerable act of vandalism; it’s rude behaviors (sic) towards Kyiv residents and against one of the most sacred places of Ukraine, the Sophia of Kyiv,” said Usov in a Facebook post. “Think of Red Bull drifting on the Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican. Or a motocross race next to La Sagrada Familia. How much time would it take for police to arrest the perpetrators?”

Saint Sophia Cathedral is on the United Nations’ World Heritage List, which means that the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization recognizes it as an area that has “outstanding universal value” worth protecting as a cultural treasure. However, being on the World Heritage List doesn’t automatically exclude these sites from hosting something like this. For example, the whole city center of Prague is also a UNESCO Heritage Site; however, Red Bull also recently filmed a video there, albeit escorted by police.

Usov says that the event caused damage to around 21,500 square feet, or 2,000 square meters, of brick. After assessing the area, the total cost to repair the damage is estimated to be around $1,766.26 (47,092.14 Ukrainian Hryvnia). Red Bull was fined $63.76 (1,700 Hryvnia) for disobeying the denial, according to local news, and will likely be expected to cover the cost of repairs.

Meanwhile, the Kyiv City Prosecutor’s Office says that it impounded Grinchuk and Shanahan’s cars. It’s unclear if the cars have already been returned or if the vehicles are stuck in legal limbo until the mess is fully sorted out.

Locals who value the cathedral’s heritage were livid, raiding the social media channels of both Shanahan and Grunchuk, who posted a photo of his 350Z at the square on Instagram. Others pointed their fingers at police who allowed the event to take place. In the end, most simply asked that the site be returned to its original state. A video was posted to Facebook showing the location being cleaned immediately after filming ended, as promised in Red Bull’s original letter. The following day, a group of volunteers visited the site to continue cleaning the tire marks leftover on the historic yellow brick.

Mariana Oleskiv, the chairperson for Ukraine’s Tourism Development, says Red Bull insists that it did, in fact, have permission to film at the location. She noted that the situation was odd, especially since another comment shows that Ukrainian police were watching the event take place and that an investigation into whether or not the energy drink company had permission was still ongoing.

The Drive reached out to Red Bull for its side of the story but has not received a response at the time of writing.

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