UK anti-oil and coal protesters spray paint Stonehenge

Environmental protesters have sprayed paint on Stonehenge, with orange marks covering some of the stones of the prehistoric megalithic structure on the eve of the summer solstice celebrations in the United Kingdom.

Two people have been arrested on suspicion of damaging the ancient monument, police said in a statement.

"This is extremely upsetting and our curators are investigating the extent of the damage," English Heritage, the charity that manages Stonehenge, said on X.

Stonehenge remains open, it added.

The monument, one of the UK's most visited tourist spots, also holds spiritual significance and attracts thousands of revellers, spiritualists and tourists during the summer solstice - the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

In video released by environmental group Just Stop Oil, two protesters were seen running towards two of Stonehenge's megaliths and spraying paint as another person attempted to stop them.

Members of the public were able to walk around within the stone circle, located in southern England, until 1977 when it was fenced off due to concerns over damage from a sharp rise in the number of visitors.

"Just Stop Oil are a disgrace," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on X of the protest at the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

"The damage done to Stonehenge is outrageous," opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said.

"Just Stop Oil are pathetic."

Just Stop Oil has gained prominence in the UK for disruptive environmental protests, with its activists shutting down major roads, disrupting cultural and sporting events and even throwing soup at a Van Gogh painting.

The group wants the UK government to end the extraction and burning of oil, gas and coal by 2030.

The group said it used orange cornflour paint to spray onto the stones, which it claimed would "soon wash away with the rain".

The incident happened on Wednesday at about 12pm, the day before the summer solstice is celebrated at Stonehenge, which is at the heart of a World Heritage site.

About 8000 people gathered at Stonehenge to mark the longest day of the year in 2023, with similar numbers expected on Thursday.

with PA