UN experts said Wednesday, Feb. 22, that "deliberate" Russian destruction of Ukraine's culture could amount to an attempt to erase Ukrainians' right to their own identity a year after the Russian invasion.

The experts urged a halt to intentional damage of sites, institutions, and objects of cultural, historical, and religious significance in Ukraine.

They said the denigration of the history and identity of Ukrainian people was being used as a justification for war and hatred.

"Numerous sites, institutions, and objects of cultural, historical, and religious significance in Ukraine have been partially or entirely destroyed by military attacks by the Russian Federation," the experts said in a statement.

"These include memorials and monuments, civilian buildings, museums, theatres, monuments, statues, places of worship, cemeteries, libraries, archives, as well as schools, universities, and hospitals."


The statement was written by UN special rapporteurs on cultural rights, on the right to education and on freedom of religion.

Special rapporteurs are mandated by the UN Human Rights Council but are volunteer, independent experts who do not speak for the United Nations.

The UN's culture agency UNESCO has estimated that more than 240 cultural properties have been damaged in Ukraine over the last year.

But the experts said the true number is probably far higher, citing assessments that go over 1,000.

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They said attacks on densely populated areas are of such magnitude "as to suggest a deliberate campaign of destruction".

The experts voiced concern at the "severe targeting of Ukrainian cultural symbols", with the country's literature, museums and archives "being destroyed", amid widespread "demonization" of Ukrainian culture and identity by Russian officials.

"Let us be clear: the Ukrainian people have a right to their identity. Nobody can violate this right," the special rapporteurs said.

They said in occupied Ukraine, "efforts are being made to erase local culture, history, and language" and forcibly replace them with Russian and Soviet versions.


The experts said they had written to Moscow but are yet to receive a response.


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