According to numerous sources, the invading Russian soldiers fled with thousands of works of art and historical treasures from art institutions in hard-hit Ukrainian cities. Among the items said to have disappeared from their rightful homes is a priceless collection of Scythian gold artifacts dating back to the fourth century BCE, which officials say were removed from the local history museum in Melitopol. Museum director Leila Ibrahimova told the New York Times she was kidnapped by Russian forces in March and held briefly before being released. Galina Kucher, the institution’s curator, was reportedly ordered at gunpoint by Russian troops to reveal the location of the Scythian gold, which was well hidden. Kucher refused, the treasure was nevertheless located, and Kucher was allegedly kidnapped: her whereabouts are currently unknown. Ibrahimova says she is aware that at least 198 artifacts have been looted from the museum.
In the besieged city of Mariupol, three works by Ukrainian realist painter Arkhip Kuindzhi have disappeared from the painter’s namesake art museum. Originally said to have been removed for safekeeping prior to bombardment by Russian forces, a sketch titled red sunset and two preparatory works entitled Elbrus and Autumn Crimea They are now believed to be in Russian hands. Petr Andryushchenko, adviser to the pro-Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol (Ukraine does not recognize the newly installed Russian municipal government because The arts journal remarks) on Telegram accused Natalia Kapustnikova, director of the Mariupol Local History Museum, of delivering the works directly to the Russians, claiming that Kapustnikova, “who knew the exact secret storage location of the masterpieces, personally handed over everything in hand”. Mariupol city council alleged that some two thousand objects are missing from the city’s museums.
According to a IPU news report, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization confirmed last week that around 110 cultural sites in Ukraine have been decimated since the Russian invasion began on February 24. These include forty-eight religious sites, ten museums, twenty-two historic buildings, eleven buildings used for cultural activities, thirteen monuments and six libraries. Among the art institutions that have been damaged or destroyed are the Ivankiv Museum in Kyiv region, the Chernihiv Regional Art Museum and the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater in Kharkiv.