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ICOM publishes emergency red list against illegal trade in Ukrainian heritage looted by Russians

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) recently published an emergency red list of endangered cultural sites in Ukraine. [PDF]. The experts of eleven Ukrainian museums created before the summer, as this newspaper reported, an inventory that includes goods that can be destroyed, but above all, looted. The bottom line is that thousands of pieces are at stake. Museum curators and ICOM’s Heritage Protection Department researched and prepared a “comprehensive Emergency Red List consisting of 53 types of objects belonging to seven categories that include archaeology, books and manuscripts, numismatics, folk art, religious art, applied art and fine art . “, said an adviser from the international organization, UNESCO. “This number of object categories creates tens of thousands of potentially endangered objects,” they explain from ICOM on

The international organization claims that Ukraine’s cultural heritage is extremely diverse and under threat. “For a long time there was a risk of theft, robbery or illegal trade. But after a full-scale invasion of Russia on February 24, 2022, these risks have increased,” ICOM said. “Due to the war, Ukrainian objects are at risk of theft and smuggling,” said Kateryna Chueva, Deputy Minister of Culture and tion Policy of Ukraine. This emergency red list is published “at a opportune moment in the ongoing fight against the illegal trade of Ukrainian cultural heritage, a phenomenon that has long existed in the region and which has been intensified by the Russian incursion,” they note.

The organization urges museums, auction houses, art dealers and collectors not to purchase similar objects that appear on this emergency red list without carefully and thoroughly investigating their provenance and all relevant legal documentation. “Any cultural artefacts that may have originated in Ukraine, before or after the invasion, should be subject to detailed scrutiny and precautionary measures before any deal is made,” says ICOM, which has been publishing emergency lists of all international conflicts since 2000. These lists assist arts and heritage professionals in law enforcement by identifying cultural property that is protected under national and international law.

The emergency red list of Ukraine includes religious icons painted on canvas or wood, with oil, tempera, gold or silver. There are also paintings by contemporary artists such as Chepyk Mykhailo, Oleksandr Ekster, Marita Prymachenko or Oleksandr Bohomazov, an artist who will be featured in the Ukrainian Avant-Garde exhibition opening next week at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Mass robbery in museums

ICOM has reports of the mass looting of the Oleksii Shevkunenko Art Museum in Kherson as they retreated from the city on November 11, “showing that this threat is real and is being carried out systematically.” The Museum of Fine Arts suffered the same fate: for days, a convoy of trucks and buses was dedicated to emptying it towards Crimea. In an interview with the Associated Press, Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko asserted that Russian soldiers had stolen the country’s heritage assets from nearly 40 museums. “The attitude of the Russians towards the cultural heritage of Ukraine is a war crime,” he added.

In the local history museum of Melitopol, conservators have hidden the Hunnic diadem (encrusted with gold and precious stones), one of the most valuable items from the reign of Attila the Hun in the 5th century. But Russian troops entered the city from southern Ukraine, and after weeks of searching for the tiara, they finally discovered a secret basement in the building, where employees hid the most valuable items of the local museum. The Hunnic headdress was among about 2,000 other items taken by the Russians. In Mariupol, Russian troops stole more than 2,000 items from the city’s museums, such as religious icons, Bibles, over two centuries.

In addition, Russian bombing against the Ukrainian population and their heritage has damaged – destroyed or damaged – more than 500 heritage sites. At the end of September, UNESCO had more than 180 damaged historical buildings, more than 50 cultural institutions, more than 80 religious centers, almost 20 monuments, etc. Since the invasion of Ukraine began, material and financial support from Europe has been sent to the country’s museums. ICOMOS Spain also sent two trucks to evacuate and save the museum’s collections.

Source: El Diario





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