Putin's Military Stole Famous Artwork From Ukraine Museum: Mariupol Council

Ukrainian officials in Mariupol have accused occupied Russian military forces of stealing "all the valuable exhibits out of the city" following museum bombings that left cultural artifacts unattended.

About two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, museums and other buildings were struck with heavy artillery that did not necessarily destroy architecture but resulted in damage including dust and debris.

The accusation made by the Mariupol City Council on its Telegram account said that the alleged theft by Russians mimics actions of the Nazis during World War II, when Adolf Hitler's Third Reich ordered the seizure of cultural property that did not reflect Nazi ideals and could be sold for financial gain for the purpose of creating a new cultural museum in Austria.

"The local history and art museums were left without their collections, which are the cultural heritage of the city and region," a Google translation of the Telegram post said. "And the institutions themselves were destroyed."

Ukraine Art Stolen
Mariupol City Council members have publicly accused Russia of "war crimes" in relation to alleged artifact theft from the city's bombed and depleted museum. In this combination image, A view of a hall in the museum of Arkhip Kuindzhi, a Russian landscape artist, destroyed after shelling in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, April 28, 2022 and German soldiers of the Division "Hermann Göring" posing near the main entrance of Palazzo Venezia showing a picture taken from the National Museum of Naples Picture Gallery, Rome, Italy, 4 January 1944. AP/GFA

Among the items allegedly stolen by Russia were original paintings by Arkhip Kuindzhi and Ivan Aivazovsky, in addition to "unique icons" and historical exhibits.

"The Nazis acted in the same way more than 75 years ago," the post continued. "They looted museums and took them home. Rashists confidently repeat their path, but under a different banner and slogan. They put 'never again' back into our home. There will be punishment, and war criminals will be punished."

Workers at the Kharkiv Art Museum, in the country's second-largest city, made efforts to preserve about 25,000 pieces of art, including "unique masterpieces of Ukrainian and world painting, sculpture, graphics, arts and crafts," as well as Russian art from the 19th and 20th centuries.

More than a decade ago and prior to multiple Russian invasions, there was a push to make Kyiv a global contemporary art destination akin to other museums and sites worldwide.

The accusation of theft and war crimes is not the first by an official in Mariupol.

More than a month ago, Mayor Vadym Boychenko accused Russia of hiding evidence of alleged war crimes in exchange for access to drinking water while native Ukrainians were struggling to access food and water.

Newsweek reached out to Ukrainian and Russian officials.