The Russian Federation has sent a “group of specialists” to the occupied territory of Ukraine who are purposefully illegally taking valuable historical artifacts to Russia. The Guardian British media outlet reports this, citing an international team of academics and digital technology experts who are tracking thefts.

“There is now very strong evidence this is a purposive Russian move, with specific paintings and ornaments targeted and taken out to Russia,” said Brian Daniels, an anthropologist working with archaeologists, historians, and digital imaging specialists.

Daniels and his colleagues have monitored the despoiling and destruction of cultural targets since the invasion began and have detected patterns in the crimes.

The trail of thefts focuses heavily on precious Scythian gold.

“These items are visually stunning, and there are now so many reports of thefts it is evident that it is a strategy,” said Daniels.

According to him, it is hard to know if the monetary value was the most important factor for the Russians or whether the objects were chosen for their cultural significance.

“There is a possibility it is all part of undermining the identity of Ukraine as a separate country by implying legitimate Russian ownership of all their exhibits,” the scientist said.

He added that the thefts tended to follow the menacing interrogation of museum curators and custodians. Moreover, Russian attempts to locate and steal hidden artefacts in occupied Ukrainian cities are becoming more determined.

As a reminder, on 29 April, Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov said that the Russian invaders had stolen a collection of Scythian gold in temporarily captured Melitopol.

In late April, it was reported that the Russian invaders had completely taken all valuable exhibits from the Museum of Local Lore and Kuindzhi Art Museum out of Mariupol, in particular, original paintings by Arkhyp Kuindzhi and Ivan Aivazovsky.

Bohdan Marusyak

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