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UNESCO training European authorities to save Ukrainian art

UNESCO training European authorities to save Ukrainian art

Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Associated Press, that the UN cultural organization is training law enforcement and judicial officials from countries on Ukraine’s western borders to prevent the trafficking of looted cultural objects from Ukraine amid Russia’s war against its neighbor.

This week, UNESCO and the Polish Ministry of Culture hosted three days of workshops in Warsaw for officials from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Moldova. Representatives from Ukraine also attended Wednesday’s training.

The aim is for officials to be able to identify and prevent any artifacts looted from Ukraine from entering their territory.

According to Krista Pikkat, UNESCO’s director of culture and emergencies, more than 230 cultural sites in Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed since Russia invaded the country.

kherson regional history museum looted russian occupiers
The Kherson Regional History Museum looted by Russian occupiers/ Source: Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets, Telegram channel

Pikkat stated that UNESCO works to document lost cultural objects, including treasures from museums and archaeological sites.

Another priority for the agency is to ensure that the general public is aware that looted Ukrainian artifacts may end up on European art markets so buyers will be more discerning.

Poland is a strong partner for UNESCO in the protection of cultural heritage in conflict situations, according to Pikkat, because it has drawn many lessons from its own experiences.

During World War II, when Poland was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, there was widespread looting of the country’s cultural heritage. Poland continues to work to retrieve stolen paintings, books, and other cultural artifacts. Eight decades after their theft, these objects are still offered for sale at auctions and on the internet.

“Poland is really a country at the forefront of this work,” Pikkat stated.

The Director of the Polish National Institute for Cultural Heritage, Katarzyna Zalasińska, noted that Poland lost at least 500,000 works of art during World War II.

While inspecting a recent international mail shipment from Kyiv to the United States, Kyiv customs officers discovered eight authentic arrowheads dating from pre-Christian Rus to the fourteenth century.

parts medieval weaponry declared customs spare parts agricultural machinery
Parts of medieval weaponry were declared at customs as replacement parts for agricultural machinery/ Source: photo by State Customs Service

And in November of last year, criminals from Zaporizhzhia attempted to mail to the US parts of medieval cold steel weapons from the second half of the 17th and 18th centuries. They were declared as agricultural machinery spare parts and valued at $10.

Read also:

Russia shells Kherson art museum that it previously robbed

Russian occupiers looted Kherson Art Museum. They loaded more than five trucks

Russians stole treasures from 40 Ukrainian museums, including golden diadem of the Huns

UNESCO called on Russia to leave territory of Ukraine

Ukraine asked UNESCO to stop any cooperation with Russian museums for stealing Ukrainian collections from occupied areas

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