Kharkiv museum desperate to save Russian art from Russian shells

As Russian forces endanger priceless Russian artworks with its indiscriminate shelling, staff at the main museum in Kharkiv urgently race to protect them.

So far the museum is still standing, unlike some others in the city, but windows have been blasted out and plaster and dust cover the floors and the surrounding streets are covered in rubble.

25,000 items are in the museum’s collection which is one of the biggest and most valuable in the country.

It seems ironic that the museum should be saving Russian paintings by Russian artists from their own nation! It is seen by staff as an act of barbarism!

Across Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of people have fled the fighting while many more are bravely staying to repel the advancing Russian army. As well as lives and infrastructure, a number are trying to save Ukraine's culture and history. These responsible citizens are true heroes.

In Odessa a monument to Duc de Richelieu, a governor of the city in the early 19th century, has been protected by sandbags.

Moscow began what it calls a ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine on February 24th to destroy its neighbour's military defences and remove what it calls dangerous nationalists in Kyiv. It denies targeting any civilians.

Ukraine and its allies call Russia's actions a brutal invasion that has killed hundreds of civilians and forced thousands to flee to neighbouring countries.

One of the most valued works at the Kharkiv museum is a version of a painting by the famous Russian artist, Ilya Repin called ‘Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks’, which for safety’s sake has been taken down ready to be stored away. However, moving paintings is not normally recommended as this risks the artwork’s safety and integrity.

Museum staff were enormously relieved that the collection, which includes works by German painter Albrecht Duerer and various Dutch masters, remained in one piece.

However, with the windows smashed, it was impossible to control the temperature and humidity inside the building, essential to protect the paintings.

Museum staff will continue to do their best to save them all. To do so, they will have to be hidden in a safe location. Future generations will thank the museum for its essential efforts.