UKRAINE: Russians looted museums in Mariupol and Melitopol, including Greek Bible

Mariupol Museum items

More than 250 cultural centres have been damaged or destroyed and thousands of objects have been looted since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, according to Ukrainian officials quoted by the New York Times.

Among the items accused of being stolen by Russian forces are ancient Scythian gold items belonging to "one of the largest and most expensive collections in Ukraine, and today we don’t know where they took it," Melitopol’s mayor Ivan Fyodorov said.

The gold of the Scythian empire, dating from the 4th century BC, was extracted by a man in a white coat with "long tweezers and special gloves", who broke into the basement of a museum in Melitopolis with a group of armed Russian soldiers, the report said.


Meanwhile, Mariupol city council officials announced via Telegram this week that Russian forces had stolen "more than 2,000 unique exhibits" from the besieged city's museums.

Items include a "unique Torah manuscript" and a "Gospel from 1811 created by the Venetian printing house for the Greeks of Mariupol."

"The city council of Mariupol is preparing the necessary material to initiate criminal proceedings and to appeal to Interpol," said the municipal officials of Mariupol.



“The Russians are making a war without rules,” said Oleksandr Symonenko, a fellow of Ukraine’s Archaeology Institute and a Scythian specialist. “This is not a war. It is destroying our life, our nature, our culture, our industry, everything. This is a crime.”

For years now, Ukraine has been locked in a complicated dispute with Russia over collections of Scythian gold that several museums in Crimea had lent to a museum in Amsterdam.

After Russia seized Crimea in 2014, Ukraine pleaded with the Amsterdam museum not to return the gold. Russia demanded the museum do just that. A court has ruled in Ukraine’s favor and the gold remains in Amsterdam.

The identity of the Scythians

The Scythians were a nomadic group that occupied an area from the north of the Black Sea to China, whose civilization flourished in the steppes from 800 BC until 300 AD.

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