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Kyiv museum reflects horror of war through objects left behind by Russian soldiers

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An exhibition in Kyiv aims to capture and reflect on the horrors of the Russian invasion
An exhibition in Kyiv aims to capture and reflect on the horrors of the Russian invasion   -   Copyright  AFP
By Theo Farrant  & AFP

An exhibition in Kyiv is highlighting the devastation of the ongoing war by displaying objects recovered after the Russian army was forced to withdraw from area it occupied around the capital.

Missiles, food rations, helmets and other objects abandoned in the region north of Kyiv are being shown at the exhibition 'Ukraine - Crucifixion,' held in a World War II museum known as the Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Ukraine.

Glass cases display personal notes and the credit cards of Russian soldiers killed on the front line in a vital early record of the bloodshed. Their passports reveal how young they were and a smashed Siberian licence plate proves some came from far away.

"In this exhibition, you can see the war. Through the original artefacts, through the stories of the objects, through the artistic interpretations of today's emotions, today's war," explains the exhibition curator, Yuriy Savchuk. 

Savchuk says he wanted "to respond to Russian propaganda", adding that Moscow has set up its own show on the so-called fascism that should be fought in Ukraine.

The horrors of war on display

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Photo shows a collection of Russian shells fired at Ukrainian windows, for the exhibition “Ukraine - Crucifixion”AFP

"It's actually really hard to look at this," said 26-year-old visitor Zoya Didok.

"It's a good thing I didn't live in one of those villages when the Russians were there."

In the museum's cellars, there's a reconstruction of a makeshift shelter from the town of Hostomel, close to Kyiv's airport. The original housed dozens of people for 37 days – among them children and a six-month-old baby. Two people died in the humid, unsanitary conditions.

On a screen on the wall, the baby's mother gives a chilling video testimony.

The exhibition also features artistic interpretations of the war from Ukrainian artists

On the first floor, a church gate ripped open by shrapnel opens to reveal a room displaying artwork inspired by the conflict.

Burnt-out candles beneath a war-torn painting of Christ pay tribute to the dead, as well as to Ukraine's damaged religious heritage.

A grenade hidden under a toy in a sandpit recalls that the childhoods millions of young Ukrainians have lost.

There is also a broken World War II memorial from Hostomel, drawing a powerful parallel between the two conflicts. Today's invaders are the descendants of yesterday's heroes.

The exhibition's artefacts were collected between April 4 and May 5 - and the show's rapid opening on May 8 came with help from the Ukrainian army and government.

Check out the video above for a look inside the exhibition

Video editor • Theo Farrant