Russian Destroys Crimean Culture Heritage
The prosecutor's office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has started three dozen criminal proceedings over the destruction of cultural monuments on the annexed peninsula
About a million unique museum exhibits and more than six thousand objects of immovable state property on the Crimean peninsula were seized by the occupation authorities after annexation.
The ancient remnants of the former Byzantine city of Tauric Chersonesos are officially recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Nevertheless, illegal excavations have been carried out there for many years. The Khan’s palace in Bakhchysarai risks being removed from the preliminary UNESCO list, as so-called ‘restorations’ deprive the palace of its authenticity.
“The Big Khan Mosque, which partially lost its roof, and its authentic roof structure, continue to decay. They started restoration, so-called ‘restoration’ of the main building, also. Based on our information, they removed the roofing,” director of Bakhchysarai historical and cultural reserve in 2014, Elmira Ablialimova said.
Scythian gold from three Crimean museums had been exhibited in Amsterdam before the penninsula’s annexation. Afterward, a Dutch court decided to return the treasures to mainland Ukraine. However, Russia appealed the verdict, so the legal process continues.
During the construction of the Kerch bridge and the highway to Sevastopol, dozens of archaeological sites were destroyed.
“In our study we found 90 monuments that were inspected and subsequently demolished as a result of these infrastructure projects. Essentially, these were archaeological sites and artifacts,” Ablialimova said.
The occupation authorities banned Ukrainian and international specialists from entering Crimean museums. Local activists continue to check on the condition of the artifacts. The prosecutor’s office has initiated proceedings based on these expert testimonies.
“Museum holdings are brought from the occupied territory to the Russian Federation. For example, paintings by Ivan Aivazovsky. Also, the occupation authorities conduct illegal ground and underwater archaeological research. Such work must be authorized by the country where they are carried out. And this is Ukraine, and not the occupying state,” Deputy Prosecutor in the Crimea, Vitaliy Sekretar said.
The occupying authorities must be brought to accountability in international courts.
“There are illegal mass seizures of property, including cultural property. And, again, following the suggestions of the court, we, including civil society, human rights activists, museum employees, and, of course, investigators, prosecutors, judges and other government officials of Ukraine must see justifications for these violations,” international, humanitarian, criminal law and human rights specialist, Kateryna Busol said.
Lawyers say that exhibits must be digitized to monitor their movements and locations of monuments must be clearly registered.