As our Association reported earlier, the International Conference “Protection of Cultural Heritage and Countering Cultural Erasure in Armed Conflict: New Challenges and Experience of Ukraine”, was held in Kyiv on July 4-5. The Forum was attended by representatives of the Government of Ukraine, prosecutor’s offices, UNESCO, domestic and foreign experts, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and public figures.

The press attaché of the Association managed to communicate with the organizers, participants and guests of the conference. During a frank dialogue, each of the interlocutors talked about the place of the “Crimean case” in the activities of their organization, as well as plans and intentions to support Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression.

Ms. Chiara Dezzi Bardeschi, head of the UNESCO Bureau in Ukraine, while answering questions about the “Crimean case”, spoke about the systematic work of this international structure to observe and constantly monitor the situation on the occupied peninsula.

 “Thank you for this question. As all probably knows that in 2014 our member states have asked UNESCO to do a direct monitoring on the condition the situation in Crimea in the areas of the mandate of UNESCO. So, culture, education, situation of journalists primarily. This is every year twice UNESCO is producing a report on the situation on Crimea. So, our direct monitoring is done through the collection of information from partners, from NGOs, from professionals, from in-depended sources. And all we are calling was an integrating in our report different voices of the, also, of office and few mark rights of UNESCO, of the UN, but also ICOMOS as statutory body of the 1972 Convention. So, we are doing this regular monitoring. Generally for normal precision, since also the beginning of the full scaling vision, generally a head of the Executive Board UNESCO is also organizing an information session for member states. So, member states, as you know, are a mean body for continuous information and the advocacy”, said Chiara Dezzi Bardeschi.

According to her information, the next report on Crimea will be presented in the Executive Board to member states of UNESCO.

 “Since the broad-scale invasion started in 2022, when UNESCO started to do documentation by remote analyses to the satellite imagery has also included among the sites that need to be monitored also a world heritage property in Crimea. As you know, see, we do not have, as all the other partners international, I mean UN and journey, we do not access”, she emphasized.

In turn, the Association addressed a specific question about the “Crimean case” in the world protection of cultural heritage after 2022 to Dr. Erik Kleijn, working as a focal point for Ukraine and as a specialist in cultural heritage and armed conflicts at the Netherlands Agency for Cultural Heritage in the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of this country.

“To answer your question what we do specifically for Crimea, well, we look at Ukraine as a one country including Crimea with its other occupied territories. So, we do not have a specifically policy on Crimea, but our main policy and point of action is to support Ukraine wherever we can. Of course, to end this war as soon as possible and to get justice done, including repayment by the Russian Federation of all damages. What we are learning from Ukraine? A lot, actually. From a heritage point of view, we also want to learn from Ukraine about heritage protection in armed conflict. We have regular contact with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy and in The Netherlands we received specialists groups from the heritage sector like museum directors, architects and urban planners. we presented our system of law and polices for heritage conservation. Since it is the ambition of the Ukrainian government to modernize its system of heritage conservation, we explained our own unique system of law, policy and instruments. Not to say that our model is better, but just as reference in order to generate some ideas for Ukrainian ministry to benefit from.

So, we exchange a lot, and we hope by giving government-to-government support that we can tell something about how we operate”, said the interlocutor of our press attaché.
Erik Kleijn especially noted that European countries, finally, obtained a realistic view on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine’s culture and heritage, and will continue to follow and analyse its development, thereby fully supporting the government in Kyiv.

“For us, as for the rest of the world, the war that Russia rages on Ukraine since 2022, is completely illegal and a serious breach of the international rule-based order. We, as many other countries in Western Europe, have stepped out of our dreamy bubble of self-evident peaceful living. And we are working towards, you know, a far more resilient society. In the meantime, of course, we do everything we can as a nation to support Ukraine in both military and humanitarian ways”, he emphasized.

Ms. Elmira Ablyalimova-Chiygoz, the project manager of public organization The Crimean Institute of Strategic Studies, spoke about her own vision of the “Crimean case” within the framework of the international conference and in the work of her organization.

“If Moscow brazenly took a piece of land, then in the long run Russia is capable of repeating it many times, so we must do everything to return to the borders of 1991. Crimea remains the focus of our constant attention, in particular, a professional monitoring group continues to work within the framework of our Institute’s activities. We actively cooperate with the Institute of Archaeology in Kyiv. In addition, we involved lawyers in our work, namely the Ukrainian Association of International Law, the Institute of Fundamental Research. They help us with the legal classification of violations against Ukrainian cultural heritage. All violations related to the peninsula are recorded,” she emphasized.

According to the head of the Institute, the experience gained in such work allowed experts to see a number of problematic issues.

“Today we understand that the list of violations prescribed in international humanitarian law is not complete. And what we face in practice, it does not contain. Therefore, the idea of our conference, firstly, is not only to remind about the experience of Ukraine, but also to talk about the specified international problem. There is a large pool associated with cultural erasure and genocide. The final document that we are preparing based on the results of the conference should contain an additional list of violations. Expanding the list of violations will provide grounds and additional tools to bring the aggressor – the Russian Federation – to justice,” the interlocutor added.

A separate section of the second day of the Conference was devoted to the problems and issues of documenting crimes against cultural heritage, in particular in the “Crimean case”. The speakers drew the attention of those present, the international expert environment, and Ukrainian government circles to the need to introduce tools for remote registration and accounting of cultural heritage objects on the occupied peninsula, recording illegal changes to such objects by the aggressor, and even their complete destruction.

Based on the materials of the Conference, the organizers plan to develop recommendations that will be published, in particular, on the resources of our Association. The basic tenets of the declaration developed by the expert environment are planned to be announced during the meeting of the UNESCO Committee for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the event of an armed conflict in December.

Press Attaché of the Association Ruslan Deremedved

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