Cultural heritage of Ukraine in Crimea has been in danger since the first days of the occupation of the peninsula by the Russian Federation. According to the modern treaty law and the general international law, as well as the national laws of Ukraine, all the items of cultural value that were and are now on the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimean peninsula belong to Ukraine. Under the provisions of the Hague Convention, Russia as an occupying state, is obliged not only to refrain from any illegal actions in relation to cultural objects, but also to help representatives of the state to which they belong (which is Ukraine) to ensure their safety. "... a Party in occupation of the whole or part of the territory of another Party shall prohibit and prevent in relation to the occupied territory: a) any illicit export, other removal or transfer of ownership of cultural property; b) any archaeological excavation, save where this is strictly required to safeguard, record or preserve cultural property; c) any alteration to, or change of use of, cultural property which is intended to conceal or destroy cultural, historical or scientific evidence" (Article 9 of the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict).
The occupation authority boasts of generous amounts it allocates for preservation of cultural heritage sites, but carries it out in a specific way: the Russian Federation is integrating the Crimean cultural heritage into the all-Russian pool, thereby decontextualizing it. It also attempts to use the symbolic capital of the Crimean monuments to justify or disguise its aggression against Ukraine.
Violations in this sphere are specifically observed in Crimea, such as:
- changes in ownership of immovable and movable objects comprising the cultural heritage (or transfer of ownership to third parties)
- illicit relocation of a movable part of cultural heritage from the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or the city of Sevastopol to the Russian Federation or to other countries;
- illicit conduct of archaeological research on the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or the city of Sevastopol.
- loss of individual elements affecting the authenticity of the item or object (specifically by way of reconstruction and erection of superstructures).
According to the experts in the sphere of monument protection, cultural heritage has suffered the biggest exposure to gross violation of international humanitarian laws. Human rights organizations dealing the occupied Crimea and the uncontrolled territories of Luhansk Oblast and Donetsk Oblast mostly focus on human rights violations, which is certainly important. Considering the extent of violations, ranging from persecution, torture, enforced disappearances, sexual abuse and gender-based violence, to over a million and a half of internally displaced persons, as well as lack of capacity at most part of the state bodies in terms of availability experts and logistics to respond to their volume and complexity, one could reasonably expect the matters of cultural heritage to be treated as a lower priority.