22.04.2022

The Members of the European Parliament condemn the destruction of Ukrainian cultural heritage in particular Babyn Yar site by the Russian Aggression (statement)

The Members of the European Parliament condemned the destruction of cultural heritage in Ukraine and at the Babyn Yar site by the troops of the Russian Federation. The working group of the European Parliament, "Babyn Yar – Memory for the Future", prepared the statement.


The parliamentarians also call on the European Commission to prepare a special plan and allocate funds to the restoration of the Holocaust sites in Ukraine destroyed and damaged by the Russian aggression. They also urged the Commission to support the documentation of war crimes committed by the Russian military in Ukraine.


The Members of the European Parliament signed this statement after the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center delegation visited Brussles. During the two-day visit, Ruslan Kavatsiuk, Deputy CEO of the BYHMC, and Marek Siwiec, BYHMC European Affairs Director, provided first hand information about the war in Ukraine and the missile strike on the territory of Babyn Yar. They also presented the project about the investigation of crimes committed by the Russian Federation. The project was initiated by Father Patrick Desbois, president of Yahad-In Unum, and launched with assistance of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center. 


The statement on the destruction of Ukrainian cultural heritage was signed by 12 Members of the European Parliament, representing the three main political groups: Petras Auštrevičius, Monika Beňová, Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Michael Gahler, Raphaël Glucksmann, Hannes Heide, Łukasz Kohut, Bogusław Liberadzki, Elżbieta Łukacijewska, Fulvio Martusciello, Frédérique Ries, Radosław Sikorski. 


The text of the document is given below: 


On 24 February 2022 the Russian Federation launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Not only the military but also civilians, women and children are getting killed. Schools, maternity hospitals, and houses of ordinary citizens are being destroyed. Millions of families have been separated as people flee the country in search of a safer place to Live.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has “justified” this invasion with a speech falsely framing Ukraine as “not a real country,” arguing that Ukrainian statehood at its core is nothing but a fiction. He repeatedly claimed that the very existence of Ukraine as a sovereign European state, with its own unique culture and history, was the result of “historical error.” Putin’s misuse of historical narrative goes even further as he calls for “denazification” of Ukraine, which the head of state is a Jew, whose family members were killed during Holocaust. Putin insults the memory of the Holocaust. Using sacred memory in order to justify Russian aggression and war crimes is unbearable and shall be condemned in the strongest possible terms. 


Russia destroyed a vast array of historic buildings and artworks that are an integral part of Ukraine’s national identity. On March 1, Russia launched a missile strike aimed at the Kyiv TV tower right next to the Babyn Yar memorial, killing at least five people. A war which was called by Russians to denazify Ukraine, led to the launching of this missile which landed on the site where over 100.000 people were killed by Nazis during the Second World War and whose memory was erased by the Soviet Union in the following decades. The loss of cultural heritage isn’t just theoretical as we have seen with the burning of the museum in the town of Ivankiv. Many cities with UNESCO recognized World Heritage Sites have been bombed. The destruction of cultural heritage and artifacts, or even collateral damage that has been caused amid intensifying violence, is an attack on the memory of Ukraine. It’s an attempt to erase Ukrainian culture not only in the minds of people but quite literally destroy the evidence of its existence. 


The Babyn Yar Memorial is important not only to the memory of Ukraine  it is a part of shared human history and thus shared responsibility. For years, the Soviet authorities remained silent about the tragedy that happened at Babyn Yar, and only in the last 30 years Ukraine has been able to break the silence, launching numerous memorialization and education projects. The invasion now is another attempt to change the narrative, to destroy the memory, to erase Ukraine as an independent state.


We call on the European Commission to prepare a special plan and allocate funds to the restoration of the Holocaust sites in Ukraine destroyed and damaged by the Russian aggression, and support the documentation of war crimes committed by the Russian military in Ukraine.


We believe that particularly the Ukrainian society, which is defending its own country and which is protecting the universal cultural heritage, deserves adequate financial assistance from the European Union. Therefore, we encourage the Commission to use existing programs and to establish a special financial instrument in order to support non-governmental organizations and grassroots initiatives in Ukraine.


We strongly condemn Russia ́s barbaric attack on Ukraine and on the site of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial. This aggression grossly violates international law, sanсtity of human life, and sovereignty of democratic countries. We have to show active support and stand up unequivocally against the war crimes that are being committed at this very moment, and at the same time pay tribute to Holocaust victims.

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