Conflicts & War

Russia takes aim at Ukraine’s cultural landmarks in targeted attacks

By Luis Ángel Reglero

Skovorodynivka, Ukraine, Jun 1 (EFE).- Over 300 heritage sites have been attacked in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in late February, Ukraine’s culture ministry has reported.

In the eastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, the Art Museum — which houses a wealth of artworks by Russian artists — the Philharmonic Society, Opera and Ballet Theater, State Scientific Library, cathedrals and several churches — including the Russian orthodox Holy Temple of Queen Tamara — are just some of the monuments and institutions that have been pounded by Russian missiles.


Many iconic monuments in Kyiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol have been battered by the war, but small towns have also been affected, and as the war rumbles on the true extent of damage is not yet known.

In the village of Skovorodynivka, near Kharkiv, the Hryhorii Skovoroda Literary Memorial Museum was struck by a missile triggering a fire that scorched much of the institution’s valuable collection.

The museum guard managed to escape unscathed, except for a piece of debris brushing his shoulder, because at the time of the attack he had nipped out to take a call, Hanna Yarnysh, the museum manager tells Efe.

Miraculously, Yarnysh adds, amid the near-total destruction of the building, a sculpture of the “philosopher of love” stands almost intact.

The village of Skovorodynivka has not witnessed any fighting, says Yarnysh.

The attack, which only targeted the museum, was designed to erase the cultural identity of Ukraine, she adds.

Yarnysh says she was preparing to move the most valuable pieces from the museum’s collection ahead of the attack but she was not able to prevent “a missile worth millions of dollars from destroying a small museum.”

“2022 is special for us, for the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of Hryhorii Skovoroda (a philosopher, poet and composer) and the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the museum, which we were going to celebrate in May,” she adds.

“With what Hryhorii Skovoroda represented, it is impossible to kill his spirit, so we are sure that we will celebrate the anniversary. The whole world supports us, they are ready to help us, calls are coming from all over the world,” Yarnysh continues.


The Ukrainian Ministry of Culture has created a section on its website to register attacks on cultural heritage, with over 300 already documented.

Russia has targeted religious buildings, including Orthodox churches, mosques and synagogues, historical monuments, museums, theaters, and libraries, but the effort to assess the damage is an ongoing process.

UNESCO has recorded 100 attacks on mostly religious buildings, according to preliminary reports.

The United Nations agency is working with Ukrainian authorities to mark sites and monuments with the “Blue Shield” emblem of the 1954 Hague Convention for the protection of cultural heritage in a bid to avoid deliberate attacks.

UNESCO director Audrey Azoulay has called for the international community to mobilize and assist with the rebuilding of Ukraine’s heritage when the invasion ends, as happened in Mostar after the war in the Balkans in the 1990s, or in Mosul — once the capital of the caliphate of the self-proclaimed Islamic State — where rebuilding began in March.EFE


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