Damage to historical monuments and religious buildings (24 February to 15 November 2022, Kharkiv Region)
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has been documenting the international crimes allegedly committed in Ukraine by Russian forces (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide) and in particular in Kharkiv itself and the Kharkiv Region.
Here we present the information we have gathered about damage to, or destruction of, historical monuments and buildings intended for religious or artistic purposes in the Kharkiv Region between 24 February and 15 November 2022. The details require further confirmation.
The detailed description of these events and links to the sources of information are contained in the daily chronicle of events for this period published on the KHPG website (in Ukrainian). The gathering of additional information continues. We ask eyewitnesses to document what they have seen on the attached form.
Damage to or destruction of historical monuments
Between 24 February and 15 November there were at least 33 incidents involving damage to, or destruction of, historical monuments in the Kharkiv Region. In the majority of cases, we have already established the unique numerical designation of the site as established by national legislation.
Monuments of both national and local significance have been damaged. Of the recorded incidents at least eight concern damage to, or destruction of, historical monuments. A further eight incidents affected residential buildings and at least three, cultural establishments.
According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, and information from the Suspilne news agency, the Russian invaders shelled and damaged the Holocaust Memorial in Drobitsky Yar, on the outskirts of Kharkiv.
According to Maxim Strelnik, head of the Izyum city council youth and sports department, and the Suspilne News Agency (Culture section), the Attack monument erected in 1988 in memory of soldiers who died in the Second World War was destroyed by Russian bombing.
Damage to or destruction of religious buildings
Between 24 February and 15 November there were at least 51 incidents involving damage to, or destruction of, historical monuments in the Kharkiv Region.
In geographical terms, 19 of the documented incidents occurred in the city of Kharkiv; 32 took place in the Kharkiv Region. The Kharkiv district suffered most of all: 13 religious buildings there were damaged or destroyed; ten were damaged or destroyed in the Izyum district. Four incidents were documented in the Bogodukhovsky district, three in the Chuguyiv district and one in the Kupyansk district.
In chronological order, 42 of the incidents of this kind took place between 24 February and 31 March or 82% of all those documented by the KHPG.
In particular, as reported by Ukrainska Pravda, the Cathedral of the Assumption was damaged by Russian shelling. The church is the oldest Orthodox Christian building in Kharkiv and is classified as an architectural monument of national significance: founded in the mid-18th century, the present building was erected in 1771-1777.
According to the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office and the Suspilne News Agency, when the invaders shelled the city’s Kyiv district on 20 June about 9.30 am, they killed a married couple and a 13-year-old boy, wounding his 15-year-old sister and partially destroying the city mosque. (The invaders first shelled the district with the Uragan multiple rocket launcher.)
Damage to or destruction of buildings dedicated to the arts
Between 24 February and 15 November there were at least 26 incidents involving damage to, or destruction of, buildings dedicated to the arts in the Kharkiv Region.
At least six museums were damaged. In particular, on 6 May 2022 at about 11.30 pm, according to information of the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office, the Russians shelled the village of Skovorodynivka in the Bogodukhovsky district. As a result, the building of the memorial museum dedicated to the poet, teacher and composer Hryhoriy Skovoroda (1722-1794) was totally destroyed. The 35-year-old son of the museum director was wounded; he had stayed overnight to guard the building.
According to reports by the Suspilne News Agency and Ukrinform, on 9 March the façade and windows of the Kharkiv Arts Museum (1912) were damaged by a shock wave as a result of Russian shelling. The building, classified as an architectural monument of local significance, incorporates elements of classicism, baroque and Art Nouveau in its design. Its collection of more than 25,000 exhibits is one of the largest and most valuable in Ukraine.
We also documented damage to no less than three theatres and two cinemas in the city. Over the period concerned we documented damage to at least two libraries, six arts centres, six community centres and orchestral buildings.
An analysis of the information gathered in our database provides grounds for qualifying the above-mentioned acts as war crimes in terms of Article 8: 2 (b) ix of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, and hospitals. See “Statistics by Legal Definition”.