Russia is pulling off a massive art heist in Ukraine

So far there are no specially trained armies in Ukraine to protect treasures from the precision Russian art thieves working under the cover of war to empty museums and destroy important pieces of Ukraine’s cultural heritage. There are just brave museum curators in regions where the Russians have seized control doing everything they can to hide and fortify their art and antiquities, using supplies smuggled in from the West to help them crate up paintings and sandbag statues.

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Since Russia began its invasion in February, 250 cultural institutions have been targeted by Russian munitions. Thousands of important museums pieces have been destroyed during the bombing of Mariupol and elsewhere. In Melitopol, Scythian gold artifacts worth millions that date back to the fourth century B.C. were stolen from crates the museum had hidden them in.

Brian Daniels, an anthropologist in Virginia, is heading a project that monitors the destruction of cultural heritage in Ukraine. “There is now very strong evidence this is a purposive Russian move, with specific paintings and ornaments targeted and taken out to Russia,” he told The Daily Beast. His team saw surveillance video supplied by Ukraine in which a Russian art expert in a white lab coat removed the gold with the precision of a surgeon, careful not to destroy them. “There is a possibility it is all part of undermining the identity of Ukraine as a separate country by implying legitimate Russian ownership of all their exhibits.”

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