Russian art curators have led raids on about 30 museums in Ukraine since the start of the war, according to a report in the London "Sunday Times".
According to the report, the ancient art pieces are also being found from the borders of Ukraine by the Russians.
Across Ukraine, many museums have been looted for valuable art pieces from the time of the Scythians, a group of peoples of Indo-European origin, mainly nomadic tribes of horsemen, who are believed to have migrated from Central Asia between 800 and 600 BC to Ukraine and southern Russia. In the 7th century BC, the Scythians joined Babylon in the war against the Assyrians. The Scythians participated in raids into Asia, and according to the Greek historian Herodotus, the Scythians even invaded Syria and Israel and reached Egypt.
Olga Honcherova, temporary director of the Bharson Museum (Photo: GettyImages)
An art piece stolen by the Russians (photo: official website, Mariupol Museum)
The raids on the museums led to the theft of art pieces, sculptures, paintings and figurines worth millions of dollars.
"The instructions come from someone at the top of the Kremlin," noted historian Sir Anthony Bibor told The Sunday Times.
"President Putin's propaganda maintains that Ukraine does not exist at all, it is part of Russia - therefore they can take anything they want."
Other experts believe that this is an attempt to erase Ukrainian culture.
"This is a policy aimed at destroying the historical memory of the Ukrainian people," said Alexander Simonenko, a Ukrainian archaeologist at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
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The entrance to the museum in Mariupol (photo: official website, Wikipedia)
The museum in Mariupol (photo: official website, Mariupol Museum)
The first raid happened at the end of March, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A museum's treasure was kidnapped and thousands of art pieces were stolen during the occupation of Mariupol and Meliopol in the south of the country.
The Russian military stole about 200 items from the Museum of Local Lore in Mariupol, including 2,300-year-old gold items from the Scythian Empire, according to the Museum Association.
According to the report, the items were selected by a man in a white coat who broke into the museum's basement with Russian soldiers and selected what they should take "with tweezers and special gloves," said Leila Ibrahimova, the museum's curator.
The biggest looting was at the Regional Art Museum in Kherson, where five trucks were loaded with 15,000 pieces of art.
One of the paintings was too big, so the soldiers had to leave it behind, next to an ancient cannon that was too heavy.
"I feel like I'm in a bad dream," said museum director Alina Dutsenko.
"It hurts to see all the empty shelves, the museum was the pride of my life, my love, my life."