There is a market in Belarus for cultural property that has been stolen from Ukraine, pillaged by Russia’s soldiers and mercenaries.

According to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine (Головне управління розвідки Міністерства оборони України), the invading and occupying ‘Russian military has opened a bazaar for the sale of loot [Російські військові відкрили базар для торгівлі награбованим]’. The proceeds of this war crime include cultural property.

There is no evidence (yet) that this particular market is handling property that is legally protected specifically for its cultural value (on top of its value simply as public or private property), but this already shows the scale and organisation of the pillaging and that the targets of the pillaging include objects of a cultural nature.

Key points:

Ukraine’s armed forces had ‘already found [уже находили]’ ‘jewelry and currency [украшения и валюту]’ ‘in the pockets of the Russian invaders [в карманах российских захватчиков]’ and all sorts of other commodities that had been stolen, from weaponry, such as guns and blades, to electronic goods and children’s toys.

Indeed, a (modern) Syrian fifty-pound coin (with a value of less than 0.02 euros) had been dropped ‘by a fleeing Russian convoy in a Ukrainian village’. It may have come to Ukraine by various routes: (probably) with a soldier or mercenary from Russia who had served in Syria, but possibly with a mercenary from Syria who is fighting for Russia or a civilian from Ukraine who had been illegally forcibly conscripted by Russia and sent to Syria.

In the city of Narovlya (Belarus), the [Russian military] occupiers set up a specialized bazaar…. for the sale of loot…. all that the Russians gained by looting and looting civilians in Ukraine…. In the “range” of the looting bazaar:… precious jewelry…, carpets, works of art…

[В місті Наровля (Білорусь) [Російські військові] окупанти облаштували спеціалізований базар…. для торгівлі награбованим…. все що росіяни здобули шляхом мародерства та грабунку мирного населення в Україні…. В «асортименті» мародерського базару:… дорогоцінні прикраси…, килими, витвори мистецтва…]

There is also evidence that Chechen special forces have redistributed basic goods that have been pillaged from Ukrainians to Ukrainians as humanitarian aid that has been donated by Russians. Such redistribution of liquidated wealth was a strategy in the Ottoman/Turkish regime’s Armenian Genocide, where it incentivised the participation of soldiers, militias, bandits and mobs and fostered support from non-Christian civilians. Here, it is being used to subsidise the cost of the repression of the survivors under occupation and to generate propaganda in order to foster support from non-Ukrainian civilians.

Due to difficulties in collecting and collating data and concerns about sharing data, we do not yet know the exact nature, intensity and extent of the theft of cultural property from Ukraine by Russia’s soldiers and mercenaries, but we do know that it is happening.

Likewise, we do not yet know whether the goods that have been traded through the market in Belarus include any of the artefacts that were pillaged from Popov Manor House or Estate (which is now the Vasylivka Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve) in Zaporyzhzhya oblast (or other public collections), but it is known that artefacts at that listed historic monument were pillaged by the invading forces of the Russian Federation (as others had been pillaged from there by Nazi soldiers during the Second World War and by Bolshevik forces after the Russian Revolution), so it is known that the proceeds of this war crime include public as well as private cultural property.

We also know that, in the same way that this “special operation” is an intensification of a war that has been going on since 2014, this pillaging is an intensification of the plunder that has been going on since 2014. For instance, as Moya Vinnitsya reported, in 2014, ‘terrorists [терористи]’ – armed non-state actors of the occupying administration that is known as the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) – ‘demand[ed] that the employees of the Art Museum of Donetsk give them all their art treasures, threatening to shoot [вимагають від працівників Художнього музею Донецька віддати їм усі художні цінності, погрожуючи розстрілом]’.

Furthermore, we know that the invading forces are sending small pieces of stolen property from Belarus to Russia by mail. We do not know (yet) if any of this particular flow includes small pieces of cultural property, but we do know that postage is a very common method of trafficking looted antiquities both within the internal markets of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus and from looters and dealers in those countries to dealers and collectors in the global market.

[Thanks to independent journalists in Belarus, we also know that the invading forces are sending large as well as small pieces of stolen property from Belarus to Russia by rail. ‘Cargo is sent mainly from the stations of Zhlobin, Kalinkovichi and Gomel – and the recipients are the stations on the Moscow line of Russian Railways…. To send large containers with stolen goods, local transport is connected with the logistics center “Belintertrans”. [Грузы отправляются в основном со станций Жлобин, Калинковичи и Гомель, а получателем являются станции московской железной дороги РЖД…. Для отправки больших контейнеров с наворованным, подключается местный транспортно-логистический центр “Белинтертранс”.]’]

Full statement:

The Russian military has opened a bazaar for the sale of loot
▪️In the city of Narovlya (Belarus) the occupiers set up a specialized bazaar selling property looted in Ukraine. The “range” of looting bazaar: washing machines and dishwashers, refrigerators, jewelry, cars, bicycles, motorcycles, dishes, carpets, works of art, children’s toys, cosmetics. That is, everything that the Russians gained through looting and looting of civilians in Ukraine.
▪️The occupiers are also trying to exchange stolen currency – dollars and euros. But due to internal restrictions on currency circulation, Belarusians are reluctant to agree to exchange transactions and offer the occupiers to turn to local banks. The Russians refuse, citing a ban on command.
▪️Currently, the occupiers have organized a centralized supply of new lots of looting “goods” to its market. In particular, a convoy of trucks with various property – industrial goods and household items – is moving from the city of Buryn (Konotop district, Sumy region) towards the state border.
▪️In the city of Mozyr (Belarus) there are Russian military KAMAZ trucks from which soldiers unload packages of items obtained by looting. The loot is sent to Russia by the Russian express delivery service SDEK.

[Російські військові відкрили базар для торгівлі награбованим
▪️В місті Наровля (Білорусь) окупанти облаштували спеціалізований базар, де продають награбоване в Україні майно. В «асортименті» мародерського базару: пральні та посудомийні машини, холодильники, дорогоцінні прикраси, автомобілі, велосипеди, мотоцикли, посуд, килими, витвори мистецтва, дитячі іграшки, косметика. Тобто, все що росіяни здобули шляхом мародерства та грабунку мирного населення в Україні.
▪️Також окупанти намагаються обміняти викрадену валюту – долари та євро. Але через внутрішні обмеження з обігу валюти, білоруси неохоче погоджуються на обмінні операції та пропонують окупантам звертатися в місцеві банки. Росіяни відмовляються, пояснюючи це забороною командування.
▪️Наразі окупантами організовано централізоване постачання нових партій мародерського «товару» на свій базар. Зокрема, з міста Буринь (Конотопський р-н Сумська обл.) в напрямку державного кордону рухається колона вантажних автомобілів з різноманітним майном – промисловими товарами та речами домашнього вжитку.
▪️В місті Мозир (Білорусь) скупчуються російські військові КАМАЗи з яких солдати вивантажують пакунки з речами, здобутими шляхом мародерства. Награбоване відправляється до РФ російською службою експрес-доставки СДЕК.]

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