Russia commits massive art theft in Ukraine

The Art looting in times of war Dating back thousands of years, the Greeks and Romans were among the worst offenders. Museums and private collections around the world are filled with looted art that was traded during the conflicts. During World War II, a secret alliance army known as the “Monuments Men” worked to protect European treasures from theft by invading armies – and had mixed success. Hitler’s Stolen Treasures They are still discovered all over Germany. Millions of stolen items may never be found.

There are still no specially trained armies in Ukraine to protect treasures from the precision of Russian art thieves working under cover of war to empty museums and destroy important pieces of Ukrainian cultural heritage. There are only brave curators in areas where the Russians have taken control, and they do everything they can to hide and fortify their art and antiquities, using supplies smuggled from the West to help them place chests and sandbag statues.

Since Russia began its invasion in February, Russian munitions have targeted 250 cultural institutions. Thousands of important museum pieces were destroyed during the bombing of Mariupol and other places. In Melitopol, Scythian gold artifacts worth millions dating back to the 4th century BC were stolen from the chests in which the museum hid.

Brian Daniels, a Virginia anthropologist, leads a project that monitors the destruction of cultural heritage in Ukraine. “There is now very strong evidence that this is a purposeful Russian move, with specific paintings and decorations aimed at Russia and carried over to Russia,” he told The Daily Beast. His team watched a surveillance video provided by Ukraine in which a Russian technician in a white lab coat meticulously removed gold from a surgeon, taking care not to damage it. “There is a possibility that it is all part of undermining Ukraine’s identity as a separate country by implicitly implying legitimate Russian ownership of all of its exhibits.”

Art historians are very concerned that Russia is stealing the soul of the country by destroying these elements. “Museum buildings have been destroyed, all collections have been reduced to ashes – it is an absolutely barbaric situation,” said curator and art historian Konstantin Akinsha, an expert on Ukrainian art, In an interview with Australia’s ABC Roundtable a program. “[The] The other side of the problem is that in the small towns occupied by the Russians, we have the first cases of indiscriminate looting of museums. ”

An employee walks past display boxes and protectively laminated furnishings in one of the galleries of the Potocki Palace, one of the architectural gems of western Ukraine and the home of the Lviv National Art Gallery in Lviv on May 13, 2022.

Photo by Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP via Getty Images

In many cases throughout Ukraine, museum directors refused to vacate without their artwork, so they congregate in fortified museums. “Managers cannot leave the building because they [they will need to] “Go back at night in case something happens,” said Akinsha, who has been in contact with several of them. “So they have become a kind of vault hermit… all over the country.”

Among the destroyed artworks were 25 pieces by Ukrainian artist Maria Primachenko that were in the Ivankiv Museum near Kyiv. Ukrainian officials say the art was captured by Russian forces before they destroyed the museum in a missile attack.


View from the theater square window, sandbags block the sculptural fountain “Molodist”, and the windows of the Navy Museum of Ukraine are paneled. Ukrainian authorities in Odessa have erected barricades in the historic center to protect key sites and monuments in the event of Russian bombing or possible street fighting.

Photo by Viacheslav Onyshchenko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Tha ALIPH, which has worked tirelessly in conflict zones including Syria and Afghanistan – where untold treasures have been destroyed in recent decades – said it is sending supplies such as boxes, fire-resistant blankets and packing materials, to Ukrainian museums to help them fortify the works in case the bombing continues.

“The storage facilities themselves must be up to standard,” Sandra Bialystok, a spokeswoman for ALIPH, said in a statement posted on their website. “They should have proper moisture control, be away from the elements, and packing boxes should be of a certain caliber in order to protect the artifacts because these artifacts are, of course, precious and fragile.”