The Russian Consulate in New York City was smeared with red paint early Friday, in conjunction with preparations by Russian President Vladimir Putin to annex four Ukrainian regions to the Russian Federation.

Police said they received an emergency call shortly after 1:30 a.m. Friday, reporting that paint had been sprayed on the facade of the Manhattan-area consulate.

A police spokesman said a possible "bias incident" was being investigated and no arrests had been made.

The bright red paint appeared hours before Putin announced the annexation of 4 Ukrainian regions occupied by his army.

Rosie Morse (a retiree who lives in the neighborhood near the consulate) said the paint "looks like a work of art".

"But the meaning is to express how we feel about Putin, and I can't say that I don't agree," she said in a statement to Agence France-Presse.

"It's vandalism, but it's an expression of how aware New Yorkers are that Putin is killing people," said Roman Paulin, 34, as he walked past the consulate. "This is a historic building and we're in the middle of New York, but I totally agree with the artist who did it."