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Looting of Ukrainian museums by Russia could be largest art theft since World War II - Prosecutor General

4 July, 2024 Thursday
19:35

According to Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, international art experts believe that the looting of Ukrainian museums by Russian forces could be the largest collective theft of artworks since World War II

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Kostin made these remarks during the conference "Protecting Cultural Heritage and Countering Cultural Erasure in Armed Conflict: New Challenges and Ukraine's Experience", Espreso correspondent Kateryna Halko reported.

Prosecutor General stated that since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, more than 1,080 cultural and historical sites have been destroyed, damaged, or plundered.

"Since 2022, Russia's crimes against Ukrainian cultural heritage have escalated significantly in scale and audacity. Russia is carrying out widespread and systematic attacks, demolitions, and looting of Ukrainian heritage sites. These actions are not justified by any military necessity and are deliberate acts of war crimes," stated Kostin.

Read also: Greatest art theft of Russia’s war against Ukraine: How the invaders plundered Kherson museum

He emphasized that the world has witnessed the seizure of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Crimea, indiscriminate shelling targeting architectural landmarks in Odesa and Lviv, missile strikes destroying museums dedicated to Skovoroda and Shukhevych, looting of museums in Kherson and Mariupol, and attacks on religious monuments in Kharkiv and Odesa. Additionally, in occupied territories, Russia is enforcing Russification policies, banning Ukrainian education, and eliminating Ukrainian history textbooks.

"International art experts say that the looting of Ukrainian museums by the occupying Russian army could be the largest collective theft of artworks since the Nazi plunder of Europe during World War II. The mass scale of these crimes allows them to be considered crimes against humanity. Moreover, the fact that they are part of a broader systematic campaign to destroy the Ukrainian people qualifies them as elements of genocide," he explained.

The Prosecutor General pointed out that the Russian forces not only systematically destroy and ruin cultural heritage sites in Ukraine, but also systematically kill Ukrainians daily and kidnap Ukrainian children. According to Kostin, such actions by Russia are aimed at erasing Ukraine from history and the past.

"The crime of genocide must be proven, and those who organized it must be punished. Efforts in this regard are directed not only by the Ukrainian law enforcement system, but also through collaboration with our international partners," he emphasized.

The Prosecutor General explained that a specialized unit has been established for effective investigation of criminal cases related to Russia's war crimes, currently overseeing procedural guidance in 70 complex criminal cases.

At the same time, Ukraine is intensifying cooperation in investigating these crimes with Ukrainian state institutions, international partners, and civil society organizations. Dozens of organizations have already joined the platform established within the International Expert Council at the Prosecutor General's Office to assist Ukraine in investigating these crimes.




 
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