On From 29 July to 7 August, 2023, Dr Michael Delacruz of the BSI Secretariat, conducted BSI’s third assessment mission in mission in Ukraine. The mission focussed on assessing the effects of the recent ‘counteroffensive’ on the cultural resource management system in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Dnipro, and Zaporizhizha oblasts.
BSI noted with concern the damage to cultural heritage infrastructure such as museum buildings, cultural centres, and religious structures, due to the somewhat static situation at the front and continual bombardment. In particular the local history museums in Chuhuiv (Kupiansk Oblast) and Bakhmut (Dontesk Oblast) have been completely destroyed.
Dr Delacruz consulted with a number of institutional officials on the status of evacuated collections, including at the Dnipropetorvsk National History Museum, Dnipropetorvsk Art Museum, the Cyril and Methodius Regional Scientific Library in Dnipro, and the local history museums in Kramatorsk and Slovyvansk. Given the ongoing fighting, BSI looked to determine if storage conditions were adequate or posed a risk to moveable cultural property.
Dr Delacruz also met with the Head of the Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) Department for the Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) of Ukraine and other senior staff members. The two groups pledged to work collectively on proposals to pilot a project to
- establish a resident Cultural Property Protection capability within the TDF
- to provide assistance in developing forensic data collection methods for selected personnel, and
- to support the development of analytical capability within the CIMIC forces to address CPP and other key issues within the civil environment.
BSI seeks to support the implementation of international humanitarian law, which protects cultural property in armed conflicts. As a neutral, impartial, and independent NGO, Blue Shield International reiterates that under International Humanitarian Law and other relevant legal instruments, including Human Rights Law and UN Security Council resolutions, all parties involved in the fighting in Ukraine must take measures to protect moveable, immoveable, tangible, and intangible heritage at risk. All parties to the conflict in Ukraine have ratified the primary piece of international legislation, the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its First Protocol (1954); Ukraine has also ratified the Second Protocol (1999). The Convention obligates states to put safeguarding measures in place to protect cultural property, to develop a specialist cultural protection unit in their armed forces, to respect important cultural property during fighting, and to prosecute breaches. BSI seeks to enhance State capability to ensure that international cultural property protection law is effectively disseminated, properly understood and effectively applied.
The Blue Shield stands in solidarity with all civilians, including ex-combatants, affected, or displaced by the conflict, whether they be in Ukraine, Russia, or elsewhere. We ask all those involved to abide by all relevant international law and to protect the civilian population and their heritage wherever and whenever possible. We stress in particular the responsibilities of all belligerent parties involved under the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols of 1954 and, if relevant, 1999.
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