A list to stop the illicit trafficking of Ukrainian art looted by the Russians

There are four enemies of cultural heritage designated by UNESCO: climate change, natural disasters, armed conflicts and illicit trafficking in cultural property. In Ukraine, the last two have been going on for more than a month and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has begun to draw up the Red List of illicit trafficking in Ukrainian works of art looted by Russian forces in their invasion of the country. The objective is to prevent the international market from paying attention to these sales, which suppose the liquidation of the memory of a people.

"Our foreign partners are helping us document the crimes against Ukrainian culture that the occupiers are carrying out. ICOM has just created the Red List to stop the illicit trafficking of heritage. They have also established the monitoring of cultural property through satellites" , tells elDiario.es Ihor Poshyvailo, director of the National Monument to the One Hundred Celestial Heroes and the Museum of the Revolution of Dignity (Maiden Museum), in Kyiv. He explains that they are currently in the process of creating the Red List, working on groups and catalogues. "It is preferable not to provide detailed information for now," she adds. From ICOM they influence the same line as the director of the Maidan Museum and tell elDiario.es that the team of experts is 15, mostly Ukrainians. The work of cataloging the objects is almost finished and in two weeks the complete Red List will be made public.

The list dedicated to Ukrainian goods susceptible to illicit trafficking will be the 19th to be published by ICOM, which at the moment it has those dedicated to Afghanistan, Colombia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen or Egypt. The list is ongoing and not closed because the reality of Ukrainian cultural institutions is very varied, as reported by Poshyvailo. In areas of active military actions there are museums that need materials to help evacuate the goods.

"Others, in the already occupied territories, need support and guidance on how to survive and act in this complicated situation," says the director of the Maidan Museum. "Some museums are still protecting their collections, others are repairing damage, some have been torn down and some have been looted," adds Piotr Rypson, President of ICOM Poland, Adjunct Professor at the Polish-Japanese Academy of Computing Technology and Curator at the Institute of History. Jewess from Poland in Warsaw.

This Monday UNESCO has verified damage to 133 sites in Ukraine since last February 24: 57 religious places, 12 museums, 26 historical buildings, 16 buildings of cultural institutions, 15 monuments and 7 libraries. The Ukrainian Ministry of Culture has identified more than 150. Ihor Poshyvailo explains that damaged museums need the expertise of European colleagues to mitigate and stabilize cultural losses, to develop conservation strategies for damaged collections and facilities. "A large number of them even hope to recover their activities and open their doors to the public in times of war," he says during the interview with this medium.

Ukrainian museums expect resources to protect their staff, their collections and their buildings. They need help to preserve their equipment and develop their projects. The museum environment in Europe and the USA has provided support by sending materials from France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the United Kingdom. ICOM Poland has launched an aid program called The Help Ukraine!, which consists of 30 three-month scholarships (ten have already been awarded), for a monthly amount of 650 euros. In addition, ICOM members help the refugee museum professional in Poland to find a job in the sector. "These are mainly women, often with children," points out Piotr Rypson.

“Museum professionals are affected in many ways, from job loss, home loss, salary loss… We are trying to help all conservators and we may be forced to extend help.” to art historians and academics," Rypson comments on the situation. There are currently 3.4 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

Ihor Poshyvailo's story is devastating, he says that the professionals affected in Ukrainian museums are tens of thousands. Many of them have left their homes, dozens of museums have been destroyed or severely damaged by Russian missiles, aerial bombardment and artillery bombardment. "Many collections have been looted in the territories occupied by Russian soldiers," he relates. But it also extends to the outstanding international aid that Ukrainian cultural institutions are receiving, consisting of packaging materials, protective equipment for collections and buildings, and for the evacuation of collections to safer places and repositories.

"There is also a contribution of money for food, water or mobile phones to museum professionals who are in the affected regions and cities, in the occupied and free territories," says Poshyvailo. This newspaper has already told how the ALIPH foundation has allocated two million dollars for aid projects in Ukraine. He has also collaborated, together with Europa Nostra and the Global Heritage Fund, in raising 100,000 euros for the Solidarity scholarship for Ukrainian cultural professionals. At no time does he name Spain.

European professionals also help with the exchange of knowledge in the management of cultural emergencies and first aid for cultural heritage. There are workshops on safeguard protocols. "Ukraine is going to need the help of European colleagues for the reconstruction processes. Now we have started the damage and risk assessment thanks to the support and methodologies of UICCROM. This will help us to define the priorities and costs for recovery. The Council National Reconstruction Fund has been established by the President of Ukraine and I believe that the efforts here are going to need strong support from international donors and experts, so that this process can start in accordance with international standards and best practices," Poshyvailo said. .

For his part, Piotr Rypson, president of ICOM Poland, agrees with the Ukrainian director. "Definitely yes! They need help from European museums in the reconstruction. The needs are and will be very great. And it should become a common task for all European countries to help in the process of rebuilding and restoring infrastructure. This will also offer a great possibility of modernizing them," he tells elDiario.es. In the opinion of the Polish expert who has been in charge of coordinating aid with Ukraine from the border of his country, the European Union should create a special fund for the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian heritage, "since he was and remains one of the victims of Russian aggression".

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