The Louvre in Paris is hosting 16 works of art, including 1,500-year-old Byzantine icons, from a museum in Kyiv in order to protect them from the war, it said Wednesday, June 7.

"Since the start of the war, like other museums, we have been concerned to see how we can support our Ukrainian colleagues. In the autumn, faced with the intensity of the conflict, we decided to carry out this rescue," Louvre president Laurence des Cars told AFP.

"It's not much in a sea of sadness and desolation, but it's a symbol," she added.

She said the Louvre was particularly concerned by the risk of theft and illicit trafficking of artworks and relics if they had stayed in Ukraine.

Among the works being safeguarded by the Louvre are five Byzantine icons from the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum, Ukraine's national arts institution, which will be exhibited in Paris from June 14 to November 6.

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Four of the icons are from Saint Catherine's Monastery in Egypt and date from the 6th and 7th centuries, and the fifth is from late 13th or early 14th century Constantinople.

Eleven other works, "among the most emblematic and most fragile" from the Ukrainian collection, will be housed in the Louvre's reserves "until the situation improves," Des Cars said.

She welcomed a Ukrainian delegation, including the head of the Khanenko museum, in October when UN cultural body UNESCO declared 240 sites in their country had been damaged by the war.

Earlier that month, a rocket landed near the Khanenko Museum, blowing out the windows.

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Most of its works have been moved into the museum's storage, but are at risk from temperature variations caused by power cuts.

The operation to rescue the 16 selected works was supported by the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas.

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