The Ukrainian museum was shocked by Russian looting

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Since Russian forces withdrew last month after an eight-month occupation, Honcharova has been trying to account for the damage and looting, a process she described as “a stab in the heart.”

“When I saw it, I was in a very terrible shock,” she told AFP as she showed around the destroyed exhibition halls.

“From this example of vandalism, I realized very clearly and clearly that the great Russian culture they are talking about does not exist,” she said, lamenting how the soldiers could “treat the museum in such a cruel way.”

The Kherson Regional Museum is one of four cultural institutions in the city heavily looted by Russian troops, according to a statement released this week by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Others – Kherson Regional Art Museum, St. Catherine’s Cathedral and the National Archives of the Kherson region.

“During the Russian occupation, the people of Kherson suffered months of torture and other abuses, and then saw how their cultural and historical heritage was packed and taken away,” said Belkis Wille, the deputy crisis director. and HRW’s conflicts.

“The people of Ukraine have the right to demand the return of all stolen goods and justice for the theft,” she added.

“Reuters”/”Scanpix” nuotr./Gyvenimas Chersone

“Everything breaks”

The Kherson Regional Museum, which specializes in local history, had about 180,000 pieces in its collection before the Russian invasion in February. exhibits, and O. Hončarova personally took care of preserving many of them.

“I have not worked in any other job. This is my second, or maybe my first home. So all the exhibits here passed through my hand,” she said.

“All the photos, all the documents, everything that was here was very familiar to me. And when I entered, the feeling was unlike anything I had ever felt before. It was like a stab in the heart,” the museum employee recalled.

She listed a long list of things that were no longer there – gold, rare coins, weapons, military medals.

“They stole everything of material value and took it in an unknown direction,” she said.

Ukrainian prosecutors suspect that her predecessor, Tetiana Bratchenko, collaborated with Moscow forces. She is believed to have fled to Russia as Ukrainian forces approached the city.

Russians in civilian clothes visited the museum “many times” during the summer, and in August, Russia’s National Flag Day was celebrated there, according to the HRW report, which cited a guard’s testimony of security.

A larger group of about 70 people arrived in October and removed the items in three trucks while Russian soldiers stood guard, HRW said.

The rights group said they “found that at least 450 objects, including Scythian gold, other gold and silver, medals and coins from Tsarist Russia, were missing from the glass cases”.

Other missing items include paintings, furniture and Soviet military uniforms.

Ukrainian media reported that the stolen items were put back on display in Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

O. Hončarova says she is concerned not only with the scale of the looting, but also with how recklessly it was done.

“It was barbaric. They used crowbars to destroy everything. Everything was broken and destroyed,” she said.

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