Experts in The Hague discuss Russia's crimes against Ukraine's cultural heritage

Experts in The Hague discuss Russia's crimes against Ukraine's cultural heritage - фото 1
Experts in The Hague discussed Russia's crimes against Ukraine's cultural heritage, detailing the destruction of monuments by Russia and calling for accountability for those responsible.

This was reported by Ukrinform.

"We document the destroyed monuments in Ukraine. Initially, remote monitoring is conducted, but on-site inspection is crucial. To date, we have examined over 800 sites in thirteen regions of Ukraine. This is done to hold Russia accountable in international courts. It's vital to examine a site as soon as possible after its destruction and then preserve the materials in a database for use as evidence. Despite the 800 inspected sites, we estimate that around 2,000 cultural heritage sites have been affected. Our team also investigates the looting of museums in collaboration with international partners. We conduct research and documentation," said Vasyl Rozhko, leader of the HeMo: Ukrainian Heritage Monitoring Lab, in an exclusive comment to Ukrinform.

He noted that the team uses internationally recognized methods to document Russia's crimes against Ukraine's cultural heritage.

According to him, another important area of work is creating a list of cultural heritage sites for the military.

"This is so they can take this information into account during combat operations and, if possible, ensure the preservation of these sites," Rozhko noted.

rt historian Roksolana Makar, who collects testimonies and documents cultural heritage damaged by the war, said that specialists conducted expeditions not only in territories controlled by Ukraine but also in almost grey zones.

"We also work in cooperation with the military and conducted expeditions in areas that are almost grey zones. This was done by my colleague Vitaliy Tytich. But in reality, both occupation and long-range shelling are very destructive to cultural heritage. Currently, our database has about 800 documented sites, which differs from the UNESCO figure of about 300 sites. There are many questions about what constitutes cultural heritage and how UNESCO monitors it," Makar said.

She emphasized that there are an incredible number of damaged sites in Ukraine and very little time to document them.

"We cannot wait until the end of the war to document all the damage. Therefore, we have begun creating our own internal forms to document more effectively. We have excellent photographers who know how to document this correctly. There is a specific methodology. We also collaborate with experts who conduct laser scanning and photogrammetry. These techniques allow for the creation of images of damaged monuments that can be used for future restoration and criminal cases, as they are very precise forms of documentation," Makar explained.

Ukrainian lawyer Vitaliy Tytich emphasized that Russia's war targets culture directly.

"Unlike previous wars where cultural heritage and cultural values were damaged as collateral, we in Ukraine and the international community face a new challenge where cultural objects are directly targeted by aggression. This is what we are trying to convey to our colleagues, using platforms like UNESCO and the opportunity of the 70th anniversary of The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. We want to present the results of crime documentation and our legal perspective on the situation in accordance with international treaties," Tytich said.

He stressed that to hold those responsible for the destruction of Ukraine's cultural heritage accountable, it is crucial to have properly gathered evidence.

"Evidence must be proper, proving specific facts, showing that attacks on culture are a direct target of this war waged by the Russian Federation. The evidence must be appropriate and admissible. Accordingly, we should use the available mechanisms to try to hold the highest political leadership of the Russian Federation and the aggressor country accountable, aiming for reparations to compensate for the damages," Tytich emphasized.

The conference, running until May 15, is organized by UNESCO in cooperation with the Dutch government. Its goal is to unite the efforts of the global community, as the 70th anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention provides an opportunity to reflect on achievements and new challenges.