Pro-Kremlin officials have begun pulling out of the southern Ukraine city of Kherson, shown here on May 20, 2022


  • Russia removed art pieces from the Oleksii Shovkunenko Kherson Art Museum between Oct. 31 and Nov. 3
  • The works of art have since been taken to the Central Museum of Tavrida in occupied Crimea
  • Among the removed artwork were paintings by Ukrainian, Russian and Soviet artists

Russian forces have been accused of looting the regional art museum in Kherson, Ukraine, ahead of their withdrawal from the territory, with the stolen pieces allegedly appearing in the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Up to four dozen people brought by Russian occupation authorities took out works of art and office equipment from the Oleksii Shovkunenko Kherson Art Museum between Oct. 31 and Nov. 3, the museum said in a statement.

"For three days, Russian marauders have been taking out all the paintings from there. They load them into their huge cars [Ural trucks]. Without any protection, without packaging, just like some kind of garbage," a witness was quoted as saying by the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered Russian troops to withdraw from Kherson Wednesday.

The removal of artwork from the Oleksii Shovkunenko Kherson Art Museum was considered by Russian occupiers as an "evacuation," but the museum claimed it was "looting under the slogans of 'preserving cultural values.'"

The museum's exhibits have since been moved to the Central Museum of Tavrida in Simferopol, a city in occupied Crimea.

"Photos of the unloading and careless assembly of the paintings instantly went viral on the Internet, and the works from our museum collection are recognizable in the photo," the Oleksii Shovkunenko Kherson Art Museum said in another statement.

Among the spotted pieces were paintings by artists Mykhailo Andriienko-Nechytailo, Ivan Pokhitonov, Pyotr Sokolov, George Kurnakov, Leonid Chichkan and Gavrilo Gluck.

"Hopefully, this information will become substantial evidence to expose and punish all those involved in the theft of artwork from the [Oleksii Shovkunenko Kherson Art Museum]," the museum said, according to a machine translation of their statement.

The Central Museum of Tavrida confirmed the transfer of the works to The Moscow Times Thursday.

"Due to the introduction of martial law on the territory of the Kherson region, I have been instructed to take the exhibits of the Kherson Art Museum for temporary storage and ensure their safety until they are returned to their rightful owner," Andrei Malgin, the museum's director, said.

The Oleksii Shovkunenko Kherson Art Museum, which has been closed since Kherson fell to Russian forces in the early days of the invasion of Ukraine, hopes to determine soon exactly what pieces have been illegally exported.

"The most valuable" pieces from the 17th century to the 19th century were taken first, according to the museum.

Russia is evacuating civilians from the city of Kherson in preparation for a Ukrainian assault