Paris, 5 May 2022

In a letter to Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, the Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Dr Shimon Samuels, thanked the Director-General “for the response to our request that this summer’s 45th session of the World Heritage Committee be cancelled due to its location, in Kazan, Russia.... The decision to postpone the session sine die is an important step.”

The letter continued, “We feel, however, that other steps need to be taken by the World Heritage Committee during ‘armed conflict’ especially with reference to the news that Russian troops are perpetrating theft in Ukrainian museums.”

As mentioned in its response to the Centre, UNESCO’s concern regarding “illicit trafficking of Ukrainian cultural property” is timely and pressing.

Samuels stressed that “reports of looting were already worrying, but soldiers allegedly led by Russian museum curators to identify objects of particular value is an outrage that implies systematic premeditation.”

The Centre recalled: “Just as Nazi Germany focused on art theft to dispossess its victims, to empty occupied countries of their heritage and enrich the Third Reich, so, apparently, Russia’s seizure of artworks is also aimed at destroying Ukrainian identity and appropriating its heritage. Media reports claim that Putin is looting, among other items, Scythian treasures to be relocated in Crimea ‘in an effort to strengthen the region’s cultural ties to Russia’.”

“We urge UNESCO to take measures against the looting of Ukrainian identity,” concluded Samuels.