In pictures: Ukraine's cultural landscape significantly damaged after two years of war

Odesa Transfiguration Cathedral, Ukraine, inspected for damage after Russian missile attacks. July 23, 2023
Odesa Transfiguration Cathedral, Ukraine, inspected for damage after Russian missile attacks. July 23, 2023 Copyright Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Natalia Liubchenkova
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Hundreds of Ukrainian cultural sites, from churches to museums, stand damaged by war. These photographs show the devastating toll on Ukraine's cultural heritage.

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Since Russia started its war against Ukraine on February 24, 2022, numerous cultural sites across Ukraine have sustained varying degrees of damage. As of February 7, 2024, UNESCO has verified damage to 342 sites, highlighting the war's ongoing impact on the country's cultural heritage. Among them are 127 religious sites, 150 buildings of historical and artistic interest, 31 museums, 19 monuments, 14 libraries, and 1 archive.

Photographic records play an important part in capturing the impact of the war on the country's rich cultural heritage and helping to imagine the scale of what is lost.

Donetsk Oblast (or Donetsk region) in eastern Ukraine bears the grim distinction of being one of the regions most heavily impacted by the war, as evidenced by the UNESCO list of verified sites. Located within this oblast, the eastern front has seen intense fighting since Russia's war began in 2014. As a result, Donetsk region has endured the brunt of the conflict, witnessing numerous cities and villages levelled to the ground. 

Among them is Mariupol, which faced extensive devastation and destruction in the earlier stages of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The city endured a prolonged siege by Russian forces, resulting in severe civilian casualties and widespread damage to infrastructure and cultural heritage. Today, it remains unlawfully occupied by Russia.

Mariupol Drama Theater before and after the bombing by the Russian forces in Ukraine. Images: Natalia Liubchenkova/Euronews, Alexei Alexandrov/AP Photo

Ukrainian cultural heritage is not only being destroyed during deliberate attacks or in combat but it is also being taken away by the Russian forces. More than 480,000 artworks have been illegally removed by Russia as of early 2024, the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine told The Economist. 

Notably, 28,000 artworks were stolen from the Kherson Museum alone during the city's occupation highlighting the systematic targeting of cultural treasures.

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