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Russian Forces Reportedly Shell Holocaust Memorial in Eastern Ukraine

The Drobitsky Yar Holocaust memorial near the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has reportedly been shelled by Russian forces. The news was announced by Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of defense, on Saturday via Twitter.

Images posted on social media show the complex had been pockmarked by bullet holes and that its most prominent feature, a giant black menorah, was no in ruins. In his tweet, Kuleba condemned the Russians for damaging the memorial, which marks where an estimated 15,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II.

“This Menora in Drobytskyi Yar near Kharkiv never threatened anyone,” he wrote.

This is the second such incident since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February. On March 1, a Russian projectile targeting Kyiv’s main communications towers struck near the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, the site of one of Europe’s largest mass graves for Jews murdered during the Holocaust. At least five people were killed in the attack, and a nearby building that the Memorial Center was planning to turn into a museum was also hit. The Memorial Center’s installations, including the monument Crystal Wall of Crying by Marina Abramović, were undamaged.

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On Saturday, the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center lamented the damage to Drobitsky Yar: “Russia continues to attack not only the civilian population of Ukraine but also the places of remembrance,” the Memorial Center wrote on its Twitter.

The strikes near Holocaust memorials come amid a brutal war that Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly framed as a campaign to free Ukraine of so-called “neo-Nazis.” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish and has said three members of his family died in Holocaust, has called Putin’s allegations slanderous and hypocritical.

Meanwhile, the cultural casualties in Russia’s war on Ukraine continue to mount. On March 20, the Kuindzhi Art Museum in the besieged city of Mariupol was destroyed amid the constant bombardment. The museum was dedicated to the life and career of local realist painter Arkhip Kuindzhi, who earned a following in both Ukraine and Russia for his luminous landscapes.

The original works by Kuindzhi owned by the museum were not on the premises at the time; however, several works by Kuindzhi’s peer Ivan Aivazovsky, a Russian Romantic painter known for his striking seascapes, as well as pieces by numerous contemporary Ukrainian artists, are believed to have been destroyed.

In late February, the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum, located about two hours outside Kyiv, was also shelled by Russian troops, resulting in the loss of some 25 paintings by beloved Ukrainian folk artist Maria Primachenko.

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