UNESCO fears harming Ukrainian heritage sites, backlash from Russian culture intensifies

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — An Amsterdam museum said on Thursday it had severed close ties with the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and UNESCO warned of heritage damage Ukrainian culture, as international cultural institutions intensified their condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Hermitage Amsterdam said it had long distanced itself from politics in Russia under President Vladimir Putin by establishing close ties with the Hermitage, giving the Amsterdam museum “access to the one of the most famous art collections in the world, from which we could draw” for exhibitions. .

“Russia’s recent attack on Ukraine makes maintaining this distance untenable,” the Dutch museum said in a statement. “Our board and trustees have decided to cut ties with the Hermitage Museum.”

LOOK: Russian forces advance as fighting intensifies in Ukraine

He added that he hoped to eventually be able to restore ties pending peace and “changes in the future of Russia”.

In another move to culturally isolate Moscow, the Swedish Academy, which awards the coveted Nobel Prize in Literature, broke a long-standing practice of not making political statements and condemned the invasion.

In a statement, the academy noted that its history and mission are deeply rooted in traditions of freedom of expression, belief and scholarship.

“We therefore join the legion of our fellow academies, literary and cultural institutions, institutions of higher learning, advocates of a free press, human rights organizations and nation states in expressing our horror at the attack. unjustified act of the Russian government against Ukraine and its people,” he added. It said.

The UN cultural agency, meanwhile, has sounded the alarm over damage to Ukraine’s cultural heritage by announcing it is working to assess Ukraine’s educational and cultural institutions and sites. heritage designated by the United Nations.

Ukraine is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the famous Saint Sophia Cathedral and related monastic buildings in the capital kyiv. Other sites on the UN list are located in the western city of Lviv, the Black Sea port city of Odessa and the second-largest city of Kharkiv. All four towns were subjected to artillery attacks and aerial bombardment by the invading Russian forces.

“We must safeguard this cultural heritage, as a testimony to the past but also as a vector of peace for the future”, declared the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay.

In a statement, Azoulay said the agency was coordinating its efforts with Ukrainian authorities to mark key historical monuments and sites across Ukraine as quickly as possible with an internationally recognized sign for the protection of cultural heritage in the event of conflict. armed.

UNESCO will also organize a meeting with the country’s museum directors to help them safeguard museum collections and cultural property as the war rages on.

At least seven educational institutions were damaged in attacks over the past week, including Karazin National University in Kharkiv on Wednesday, the statement said.

Last week, Hollywood joined international film festivals, orchestras, art exhibitions and other cultural institutions to blacklist Russia and promote Ukrainian artists in a show of solidarity.

The Russian Ballet Theatre, an independent ballet company dedicated to this style of dance with a multinational cast that is currently touring the United States, renamed itself RBT Ballet Theater on Thursday and uses the slogan “We Dance for Peace”. We stand with Ukraine.

Winfield reported from Rome. Barbara Surk contributed from Nice, France.

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