President Joe Biden has said Russian President Vladimir Putin is not only trying to overtake Ukraine but also is "trying to literally wipe out the culture and identity of the Ukrainian people. Attacking schools, nurseries, hospitals, museums, with no other purpose than to eliminate a culture."
The Russian military's frequent targeting of Ukrainian cultural sites appears to be "systematic," according to a U.S. official, The Washington Examiner reported.
Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said: "Looking at this as a layman, I see a certain degree of systematicity to these crimes, but it'll be for the experts. We'll let them pronounce — they're going to be independent. They'll make their own determinations."
Russian forces have struck churches, cultural sites, and a museum dedicated to the 18th-century philosopher and poet Hryhoriy Skovoroda, which was not near any military operations at the time, Carpenter explained, assessing that this attack was either deliberate or a mistake. Striking these locations is a war crime under the 1954 Hague Convention.
Ukraine is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and since the Russians launched their invasion, at least 39 landmarks across the country have been damaged, looted or reduced to ruins, according to the Transatlantic Dialogue Center, a Ukrainian political nonprofit based in Kyiv, NBC reported.
Russia's military seems to be targeting cultural heritage sites in addition to houses, hospitals and schools. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization reported on June 8 that Russia had damaged 65 religious sites, 27 historic buildings, 17 buildings dedicated to cultural activities, 15 monuments, 12 museums, and seven libraries since it invaded on Feb. 24, The Washington Examiner reported.
Russian forces have shelled nonmilitary areas from long distance, NBC reported.
Russia's military tactics have made it harder to determine whether landmarks are being specifically targeted or whether damage is a byproduct of attacks on the civilian population, according to NBC.
Ukrainians are banding together to protect their landmarks, NBC reported. Peter Voitsekhovsky, an analyst at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, a nonprofit, said residents in Odessa had piled sandbags around the city's famed 19th-century Opera House and the iconic statue of Odessa's founder, the Duke of Richelieu. Voitsekhovsky said that for Odessans, the Richelieu statue holds the same significance as the Statue of Liberty does for Americans.
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