It Is Not True that the West is Plundering Ukraine’s Historic Heritage

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Photo: Screenshot from video

There is no evidence in support of the claim about plundering and “kidnapping” Ukrainian cultural treasures. Such claims from the post were refuted by the Ukrainian authorities. The Ministry of Culture and Information Technologies of Ukraine stated that the claim about kidnapping Ukrainian sacred relics is fabricated. The post states that the relics from the Kyiv church compound will be permanently moved, along with the Ukrainian icons displayed at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Truth be told, some Byzantine icons have been temporarily evacuated from Ukraine as a response to the threat of their destruction from the Russian missile attacks. The Ministry of Culture of Ukraine assures that the icons will be returned home once the situation allows that to happen


Facebook post (screenshot here), by sharing and twisting several facts, is manipulating the public claiming that the West is plundering the historic heritage of Ukraine. That is not true. What is happening is the protection of the treasures, not stealing them.

The post specifies:

Zelenskyy approved the removal of Christian treasures, including sacred relics, from the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra for subsequent transfer to museums in Italy, France, Germany and the Vatican.
Some of the valuables have been already sent to Canada, and some to France (16 icons from the Byzantine period).
“Ukrainian artwork, including the valuable Byzantine icons, were secretly taken out of Kyiv to be safeguarded in Louvre until the war lasts in Ukraine. Five works were presented to the public as part of the exhibition “The Origins of the Sacred Image” that will last until 6th November, reported the French News Agency AFP.
The behavior of European colonialists today is not at all different. They only know how to rob, lie, provoke, and betray. This is the foundation of the welfare of the contemporary West.

The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is a historic Orthodox Christian monastery compound located in Kyiv, Ukraine. The compound is the seat of the Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Church. A major feature of the monastery is the system of catacombs beneath it, in which the mummified bodies of more than 100 monks and saints are entombed.

The Facebook post which is the subject of this fact-check, claims that the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has agreed to relocate the relics and the other national treasures from Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra to museums in the Western countries. This is a manipulation and it is not true. There is no evidence that historic Ukrainian treasure has been “kidnapped”. On the contrary, these claims have been refuted by several sources.

This manipulation originates from the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation that published on its official website on 26th June 2023 an announcement stating that the Ukrainian authorities and UNESCO had reached an agreement for “removing Christian treasures” from the Kyiv-Pecharsk Lavra compound in Kyiv and relocating them to museums of the Western countries. The announcement quotes the Director of this Service, Sergei Naryshkin.

Globalist elites, known for their passion for the acquisition of other’s property, are enhancing their efforts for plundering Ukraine. However, if previously we talked about financial and material resources, including grain and fertile soil, now they are stretching their hands for the Orthodox shrines located on Ukrainian territory, states the announcement.

Apart from the intelligence of the Service, however, the announcement does not offer any evidence or even sources of the claims. The post was transmitted by Russian-language media. The Agency RIA Novosti published the statement on 26th June 2023.

Ukrainian Minister of Culture, Oleksandr Tkachenko, denied these claims on his Telegram channel and on Twitter.

As the Lavra becomes more Ukrainian, the more Russia rages. Our only current goal is to protect it from the Russian world and verify the presence of all our sacred Ukrainian relics. Not a single sacred treasure will leave Ukraine, and everything stolen from Russia will have to be returned, tweeted the Minister.

On 27th June 2023, the official Facebook page of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Information Technologies shared a post from Telegram of the Centre for Strategic Communications within the Ministry, stating that the claims related to kidnapping Ukrainian sacred relics were fabricated.

Maxim Ostapenko, acting Director of the National compound Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra called the claims that ”Christian valuables were exported from Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra to Europe” fake information from Russian Telegram channels.

We don’t have – nor will we ever have – such plans. Ukrainian monuments will be kept in Ukraine and our country will do all that it can to safeguard these monuments, including from the Russian aggressors.

The post states that the relics from the Kyiv church compound will be permanently relocated, as well as the Ukrainian icons, that are exhibited in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The truth is that some Byzantine icons are temporarily evacuated from Ukraine, as a response to the threat of devastation from Russian missiles. According to the article in Ukrainian Forbes, Museum Khanenko was damaged in the Russian attack in October 2022, while the evacuation of the Byzantine icons from the Museum was organized as a precautionary measure in May 2023.

But there is no “plundering” of the Ukrainian cultural heritage by the West. The Ministry of Culture of Ukraine assures that the icons will be returned once the conditions allow it. Apart from that, the evacuation of the Byzantine icons was a step of necessity. In October 2022, the historic building and the interior decoration of Museum Khanenko were damaged in the Russian missile attack. Although the exhibits were put into storage at the beginning of the war, the temperature fluctuations caused by the damaged buildings and power cuts due to the ongoing Russian bombing of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure affected the works of art.

From the beginning of the war, we, but also other museums, have been concerned about extending support to our Ukrainian colleagues. That autumn, faced with worsening of the conflict, we decided to undertake this rescue action, said the Director of the Louvre Museum, Laurence des Cars, commenting for the News Agency AFP.

In addition, she stressed that the Louvre:

Was especially concerned about the risk of theft and illegal handling that could affect the art work and the relics should they remain in Ukraine.

As published by the Ukrainian fact-checking site, in the period 24th February 2022 – 15th May 2023, in the Register of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, 623 cultural buildings of Ukraine were registered as either damaged or destroyed as a result of the Russian military aggression. 80 of those buildings have national significance, 484 have local significance, while 59 were just recently discovered. Analysts believe that Russia has stolen more than 15,000 pieces of Ukrainian artwork and artifacts during the war.

Ukraine accused Russia of violating the Hague Convention from 1954 on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, adopted after the Second World War. The sides that have signed this Convention (Ukraine and Russia) are prohibited to undertake “all forms of theft” of cultural valuables.

According to all the information laid out, we assess that the claim about the West robbing the historic treasure of Ukraine as untrue.