Katharyn Hanson, the head of research at the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, told NBC News Russian forces are carrying out a “targeted destruction” of cultural sites and research suggests the looting is “state-sponsored by Russia.”
Researchers Compare Russia to Nazis During WWII For Stealing Art From Ukraine, Trying to Destroy Its Cultural Identity
by Shiryn Ghermezian
Ukranian researchers said evidence shows that Russian forces are stealing art and cultural artifacts from Ukraine during the ongoing war between the two countries on a magnitude comparable to what the Nazis looted during World War II, NBC News has reported.
Alina Dotsenko, director of the Kherson Regional Art Museum in Ukraine, told the news outlet that in November 2022, a team of armed Russians, dressed in civilian clothes, arrived at the museum and over the course of five days stole more than 11,000 pieces of art, including paintings, sculptures and graphics.
“It was obvious that it was all planned. The decision to loot the museum was not made on the spot,” Dotsenko said. “It was all carefully planned.”
Trucks carrying the looted artwork arrived at a museum in Russian-occupied Crimea, according to photos. The director of the Central Museum of Taurida in Simferopol confirmed that the items are now in Simferopol but insisted they are in storage to protect them.
June 2, 2023 1:59 pm
Researchers monitoring the looting done by Russian forces since their invasion of Ukraine in November 2022 said they have also stolen ancient coins and jewelry dating to the fourth century BC, and thousands of paintings from museums and private collections, according to NBC News. Last year, US Customs and Border Protection officials seized in New York three swords dating to the fifth or sixth century and an ancient stone ax head that were all stolen from Ukraine. They were returned to the Ukrainian government in March.
Hundreds of art and cultural sites, churches and museums in Ukraine — some of which are nowhere near the fighting — have also been severely damaged and destroyed by Russian forces. Shortly after Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum near Kyiv was attacked, even though it was far from any fighting or military targets, and multiple works by beloved Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko were destroyed and damaged, according to researchers.
“They are trying to erase Ukrainian identity, just the way the Nazis did,” added art restitution lawyer Chris Marinello.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces “have bombed, shelled and destroyed hundreds of sites and places that epitomize Ukrainian identity and heritage — from churches and museums to archaeological sites and monuments,” said Richard Kurin, the ambassador-at-large of the Smithsonian Institution. “He seeks to eliminate the physical markers of Ukraine’s distinctive culture so as to conform to his warped view that there is no such culture.”
According to UNESCO, 250 cultural sites in Ukraine have been damaged.
The 1954 Hague Convention of 1954 aims to protect cultural heritage and prohibits the targeting and looting of cultural properties during arms conflicts.