Gold, Resources, History: What Hasn't Been Looted in Ukraine by Russian Forces?

Dr. E.C. Beuck
Bees fight against Bear stealing their honeyGordon Johnson/Pixabay

If you are like many people around the world, you have heard quite a bit about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent war these past few months. Extensive fighting has displaced millions of Ukrainian citizens and casualties continue to mount for both sides as each attempts to chart their preferred future for the war-torn country.

What you might not be aware of is the scale of the looting occurring in Ukraine.

It has been well established by this point that Russian forces have engaged in looting across the towns and cities after attempts to seize them from Ukrainian control. Valuables, underwear, clothing, and even appliances and televisions have all been looted. Many of these stolen goods have been mailed back to family members in Russia itself. By May, the Moscow Times had estimated these shipments to weigh in excess of 58 metric tons.

But this is not the full story either. Valuable gold and art tied to Ukraine's history have been taken as well. At the start of the war, the director of the Museum of Local History in Melitopol arranged for a large number of gold items and other artifacts from ancient Scythia to be hidden away before the arrival of Russian soldiers in the city. Despite these efforts, the hoard of gold and other historical artifacts were eventually found by Russia soldiers, who have since sent them on to Donetsk, in the Donbas area that is controlled by Russia. Over all, there were a minimum of 198 items made from gold, including ornaments in the form of flowers, a number of gold plates, silver coins, special medals, and even rare old weapons that were taken.

Similar events have occurred in Mariupol as well, where Russian soldiers broke into an art museum there to loot masterpiece paintings among other cultural artifacts. Worse, beyond the looting itself is the destruction. With so much documented support for the scale of looting occurring in Ukraine, which is prohibited under international law, it is more than a little concerning that the Russian government has not yet called for its soldiers to cease these activities.

This might be due, however, to how the Russian government itself has been accused of taking part in the looting. In late May, a spokesman for the port in Mariupol stated that a vessel would be loading up 2,700 tonnes of Ukrainian metal to be transported 100 miles away to Rostov-on-Don in Russia. This is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain and agricultural equipment that had previously been looted and sent to Russia.

As things stand, hundreds of cultural institutions across Ukraine have been damaged, or even outright destroyed. The loss of so much history is beyond tragic. Worse, to those who have lost their homes and all their possessions, the road ahead will be difficult at best. And that number grows every day the conflict drags on.

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Holding a PhD in Political Science, I write about current events and on political topics related to international relations, international law, conflict both between and within states, and the interactions between technology and politics.

Washington, DC

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