On May 7, the New York Times reported that Lviv’s National Gallery, the largest museum in Ukraine, was reopening several of its 18 branches as an act of defiance to Russia’s devastating war campaign in the country. Many of its walls are bare, however, as the treasures of the collection, including works by Francisco Goya, Peter Paul Rubens, and Georges de La Tour, have been hidden away.
Since the Russian invasion began in February, reports have surfaced of what appears to be a focused campaign of cultural destruction throughout Ukraine. Both countries have signed the 1954 Hague Convention, which was drafted to safeguard cultural heritage during periods of war. A UNESCO declaration in March expressed concern that Russian forces were “directing unlawful attacks” against cultural sites in Ukraine, violating the international code developed following World War II.
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As of May 9, UNESCO has verified damage to 127 landmarks in Ukraine, including 11 museums, 54 religious buildings, and 15 monuments; a statue of Taras Shevchenko, the foremost Ukrainian poet and leader of Ukraine’s national revival, was hit with gunfire in the occupied town of Borodianka, outside Kyiv. Ukrainian officials allege that Russian troops have looted more 2,000 artworks from three cultural institutions in the battered port city of Mariupol.
“Each day of this war, the Russian army does something that leaves you speechless,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said. “Targeted attacks on museums—this wouldn’t cross even a terrorist’s mind. But this is the army that’s waging war on us.”
Below is a list of several of the most notable cultural casualties of the war in Ukraine. The list will be updated as events unfold.