As Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova posted on Facebook, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine together with experts on international humanitarian and international criminal law from NGO "Regional Center for Human Rights", "EuroMaidan-Crimea", and the Ukrainian Association of International Law collected a huge body of evidence of large-scale appropriation and destruction of cultural heritage sites not justified by military necessity and carried out illegally and aimlessly.
According to Venediktova, the cultural values stored at the museums of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as cultural heritage sites located in this territory, are the property of Ukraine, the national wealth, an integral part of national cultural heritage and are protected by national legislation and international law.
Destruction of the unique cultural heritage of mankind is as irreversible a crime as depriving a person of life because one way to end a nation's existence is to destroy its culture and history.
“This is sensitive matter but very important for the self-identity of our state. We provide evidence of the expropriation and destruction of these values so that the International Criminal Court can include them in its investigation, which we hope may begin soon. The document provides evidence of large-scale destruction and appropriation of cultural heritage sites: Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora; historical surroundings of Crimean Khans’ capital in Bakhchysarai – Khan Palace, Chufut-Kale; Crimean astrophysical observatory; Tower of Constantine and Dock Tower in Feodosia; Church of St John the Baptist in Kerch. The communication also contains numerous cases of illegal archeological excavations and modifications of cultural values in the temporarily occupied territory of the Crimean Peninsula, in particular the localities of Kermen-Burun and Syvah-Kermen. The communication describes in detail other forms of crimes committed by the official authorities of the Russian Federation and the occupation authorities of the Crimean Peninsula. Among them: illicit trafficking of cultural property, criminal negligence in the process of so-called ‘restoration’ of cultural sites, illegal archaeological excavations, in particular, excavations of burial sites and mounds, their destruction and looting, as well as the transfer of cultural property from the temporarily occupied territory,” the Prosecutor General informed.
According to her, dozens of cultural heritage sites of Ukraine and mankind were also destroyed as a result of the construction of the so-called Tavrida highway – the Kerch-Sevastopol highway and highway-over crossings in Sevastopol, which along with the construction of the Crimea Bridge contribute to further militarization of the peninsula as set forth in the UN General Assembly resolution “Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov”.
Such actions are a serious violation of international humanitarian law and are qualified as a separate type of war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Venediktova stressed.
In addition, she noted, law enforcement agencies of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol are currently investigating 23 criminal proceedings over more than 100 cases of intentional destruction or damage of historical or cultural monuments, illegal search, archeological works, transfer of cultural values from the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.