Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the aggressor state has caused enormous damage to the infrastructure and ecology of Ukraine, and Russia also killed tens of thousands of citizens who became innocent victims of the Kremlin’s war crimes. However, there is another dimension to the damage caused by the Russian invaders to Ukraine, and by the way, not without the help of Crimean collaborators.

We are talking about the transfer of cultural property from the occupied mainland Ukrainian territories to the temporarily occupied Crimea. This process began almost immediately after the capture by the aggressor of Kherson and certain territories of the Zaporizhzhya region.

More than three hundred days of war have passed, and we can assess the scale of this problem, the urgency of which grew in December of this year, when characteristic processes began on the temporarily occupied peninsula. The chronology of events and specific facts were analyzed by the experts of the Association of Reintegration of Crimea.

In order to outline the scale of the problem, let us cite UNESCO data at the beginning of a full-scale invasion. After the occupation in 2014, Russia criminally “appropriated” many thousands of exhibits of Crimean cultural values of national and local significance.

The report of the organization clearly states that the aggressor state has thereby strengthened its dominance over the occupied Crimea. It should be noted that local collaborators did not even provide proper conditions for the storage of cultural property, and the invaders’ “authorities” criminally transferred them to Russia, without any reason [1].

Obviously, the Kremlin, with the support of Crimean collaborators, has done everything possible to destroy all evidence of the history of Ukrainian Crimea and promote its own fake narratives about the supposedly “Russian” history of the peninsula. After February 24, 2022, the situation in this area has deteriorated dramatically.

Almost from the first days of the large-scale war, the occupied Crimea became a transit point for the criminal theft of cultural heritage objects and museum valuables from the occupied territories of the mainland south of Ukraine. According to insiders, an active purchase of packaging materials for stolen cultural monuments has begun in the occupied Crimea [2].

It should be assumed that the Russian occupiers from the very beginning were clearly focused on looting cultural values, because this is a very significant direction of aggression for the Kremlin, which they use for criminal attempts to discredit the history of Ukraine. Kherson was one of the first to take the blow. To date, it is known that a significant number of exhibits were taken illegally to the temporarily occupied Crimea from the Kherson art and local history museums. We are talking about the unique exhibits of the natural history department and the lapidarium. Some collaborators were found who criminally pointed out the value of the exhibits to the invaders and helped to take them out of the museums [3].

Employees of the Kherson Art Museum in November received information from open sources that a significant number of transferred exhibits were “lit up” in the so-called “Central Museum of Taurida” controlled by the Russian invaders, which is located in occupied Simferopol. In the photos from the network, it was possible to see how the Russian occupiers casually unloaded priceless works of art. Museum experts have already begun to identify the stolen and form the appropriate lists [4].

The police of the Kherson Region also reacts to these crimes of the Russian occupiers. Criminal proceedings have already been opened on the fact of the theft and removal of art treasures from the Kherson Art Museum by the Russian military [5]. This is quite painstaking, but extremely necessary work, since the process of returning the transferred cultural property is quite complex and long-term.

It should be noted that a few days before their flight from Kherson, the Russian military intensified the criminal process of transferring cultural property to the temporarily occupied Crimea. We are talking about the total devastation of museums, the exhibits of which were transferred without observing any conditions of transportation and storage, which can lead to their destruction [6].

Facts of criminal transfer of collections of educational institutions of the Kherson Region were recorded. The Russian military also carried out raids on the houses of local historians who had corresponding private collections [7]. Antiques shops were also affected, where they forcibly took away any things that had the slightest artistic or historical value. Also in October 2022, the Russian invaders dismantled and took a number of monuments to the occupied Crimea [8].

Ukrainian law enforcement officers already know the data of collaborators from Kherson, who criminally helped the invaders to transfer cultural property to the occupied Crimea. One of those criminally contributing to these processes was the criminal so-called “Minister of culture” Alexander Kuzmenko, who before the occupation of Kherson was a music teacher at school. It was he who took criminal complicity in the theft of cultural property from the museums of the Kherson Region on the eve of the liberation of the regional center by the Ukrainian Army [9].

Ukrainian intelligence has already established that the criminal transfer of cultural property from Kherson was carried out by Russian security forces, who were equipped with Western-style clothing and traveled in off-road vehicles. They took out museum exhibits in small trucks, accompanied by a reinforced convoy armed with Russian-made weapons [10]. Obviously, these actions were criminally organized by the Kremlin and have an important ideological significance for it.

However, here, too, the aggressor’s tradition of “stealing everything that lies badly” was not avoided. The fact is that according to the words of the criminal “officials from culture” of the occupied Crimea, they have paintings from the Kherson Art Museum allegedly “in storage”. Moreover, the collaborators call the figure “ten thousand exhibits”, although, according to the real representatives of the museum, there should be much more paintings [11]. It should be assumed that some of the cultural property was corny stolen by the Crimean collaborators and became part of their “private collections”. Experts believe that it will not be so easy to return these works of art, because the exhibits were criminally removed randomly, but almost always under the pretext of a fake “rescue”.

It should be noted that cultural values were massively criminally transferred to the temporarily occupied Crimea not only from Kherson. Part of the territory of the Zaporizhzhya Region also suffered from the invaders’ hands. In particular, in the spring, the aggressor’s army robbed the “Popov’s Estate” museum-reserve located in the city of Vasylivka. Around the same time, the Russain invaders criminally removed historical and cultural values from the Melitopol Museum of Local Lore to the occupied Crimea, among the exhibits was a collection of Scythian gold found in the 50s of the last century [12].

The invaders are not only stealing our cultural treasures, but they are trying to destroy what cannot be stolen. So, they mined the area near “Kamyana Mohila”, a unique monument of geology and archeology of world importance, located in the Zaporizhzhya Region near Melitopol. By the way, this monument is on the previous UNESCO World Heritage List [13].

It must be assumed that the Russian occupiers’ policy is not only to appropriate priceless exhibits. They also seek to destroy historical and cultural values as part of the attempted genocide of the Ukrainian people. It is the preparation for such international crimes that they are trying to spend the entire period of the occupation of the Ukrainian Crimea.

It is worth mentioning the facts of the criminal transfer to the occupied Crimea of the museum funds of the Kakhovka Historical Museum [14]. But not only Ukrainian museums suffered from the invaders, which were literally devastated on the criminal instructions of the Kremlin. A significant number of cultural values disappeared from Ukrainian churches.

In particular, the Russians robbed the temple of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Energodar. Icons of the late 18th – early 19th centuries were taken to the temporarily occupied Crimea. This time, the Russian invaders said that allegedly “locals stole the icons”, and the Russian military allegedly “caught” them and “handed over the icons” to the fake “Melitopol State Museum of Local Lore”, but in fact no one “transferred” anything to Melitopol, that is, again cultural values disappeared, in an obvious direction [15].

There is information that some of the paintings of Arkhip Kuindzhi and Ivan Aivazovsky stolen in Mariupol were also criminally taken to the temporarily occupied Crimea, after which their fate is unknown [16]. That is, we are talking about a large-scale criminal operation of the aggressor to rob the newly occupied Ukrainian territories, in which the Crimea is assigned the role of a transit point.

Over the past few months, quite sad news has been coming from the occupied peninsula. It is reported that the historical and cultural values that the Kremlin stole from our state and accumulated in the Crimea began to be transferred from there to Russia. Specifies the purpose of the collection of works of art packed by trucks [16]. It is obvious that we are talking about an attempt on the criminal appropriation of rare and valuable exhibits.

Today, experts note the danger that threatens cultural property due to improper storage and transportation. They also note the cynicism of illegal archaeological excavations carried out by the invaders in the occupied Ukrainian territories. This is the reason for the appeals to the international community demanding that Russia be excluded from UNESCO.

Crimean residents note that in the process of loading cultural values, their storage points are surrounded by the military of the aggressor, who make sure that not a single person has access to these premises. Thus, they are trying to hide their war crimes in Ukraine. It is also known that the final “destination” of the stolen Ukrainian historical and cultural property is always kept secret [17]. So it is likely that a significant part of the exhibits will not end up in “Russian museums”, but will end up in the hands of the Kremlin elite.

Crimean collaborators, even before the start of large-scale aggression, began to criminally use the key cultural values of the occupied Crimea to promote the criminal narratives of the “Russian world”. This is not a new trend, because according to Ukrainian archaeologists, during the Soviet era, a lot of cultural values and artifacts were transferred from Ukraine to Russia. For example, after World War II, collections from Ukraine “for some reason” ended up in Moscow and Leningrad, although the authorities claimed that they “were taken by the Nazis to Germany” [18]. This also applies to the cultural values of the Crimea. Today, the scale of the problem, as well as the level of cynicism of the aggressor in relation to the Ukrainian cultural heritage, is also striking [19].

It was reported in the media that Crimean collaborators transmitted criminal “orders” “to the localities” to prepare stolen cultural property for the “evacuation” of a number of institutions in Bakhchisarai and Simferopol [20], not only paintings and icons, but also collections of unique jewelry, coins and other artifacts.

It is reported that the Crimean collaborators are trying to hide the criminal so-called “evacuation” of cultural property from the Crimean residents as much as possible: packaging materials for “museums” are “ordered from entrepreneurs” in small batches, and local collaborators, on the criminal instructions of the Kremlin, also began a total “inventory” of the stolen goods in order to determine the “valuable exhibits”.

That is, the Russian invaders are planning to transfer from the occupied Crimea to the aggressor state, first of all, valuable historical and cultural values that were stolen in Ukraine. There is also information that the “museums” of the occupied Crimea have begun to develop “technical specifications” for the manufacture of boxes into which it will be possible to transport “the most valuable exhibits without the risk of damaging them” [21].

According to some experts, Crimean collaborators pay the most attention to products made of precious metals, which they carefully guard and prepare for criminal transfer to Russia [22]. According to Ukrainian intelligence, the active phase of the criminal “evacuation” of cultural property from the occupied Crimea may begin if Russian troops leave the occupied left-bank Kherson Region [23].

In the “media” controlled by the aggressor, they are trying to pass off the intention to transfer cultural property from the peninsula to Russia as allegedly “a fake spread by the Ukrainian authorities.” However, the Crimeans do not believe in these statements of the invaders, because the facts indicate the opposite. For example, as mentioned above, there are irrefutable numerous evidences that the aggressor criminally brought exhibits stolen in the Kherson Region to the “Crimean museums”. At the same time, it could not but turn out that such a criminal packaging of historical and cultural values is a “difficult process” [24]. It is possible that this is precisely why the collaborators in the occupied Crimea can criminally take care of this issue so “in advance”.

Thus, the Kremlin criminally uses the occupied Crimea to accumulate exhibits stolen from mainland Ukraine, which the aggressor obviously plans to transfer to Russia in the future, as well as the Crimean part of the cultural and historical heritage of Ukraine.

The criminal transfer of historical and cultural values from the newly occupied territories has become a separate direction of the ideological and cultural expansion of the aggressor state, which is coordinated by the Kremlin at the highest level.

At the same time, Crimean collaborators criminally provide “organizational aspects” of the illegal transder, storage and subsequent transportation of Ukrainian cultural property from Crimea to Russia.

The scale of the problem is quite threatening, since there is a problem of both documenting the facts of the theft of cultural property and creating mechanisms for their subsequent return after the victory over the aggressor.

The intentions to take all the stolen exhibits to the territory of Russia itself are directly related to the understanding by the invaders of the reality and inevitability of the de-occupation of the Crimea.



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