October 6, 2022
The Russian military's frequent targeting of Ukrainian cultural sites appears to be "systematic," according to a U.S. official, who declined to specify whether it amounted to genocide.

The Russian military’s frequent targeting of Ukrainian cultural sites appears to be “systematic,” according to a U.S. official, who declined to specify whether it amounted to genocide.

Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told reporters on Friday, “Looking at this as a layman, I see a certain degree of systematicity to these crimes, but it’ll be for the experts. We’ll let them pronounce — they’re going to be independent. They’ll make their own determinations.”

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Russian forces have hit churches, cultural sites, and a museum dedicated to the 18th-century philosopher and poet Hryhoriy Skovoroda, which was not near any military operations at the time, Carpenter explained, assessing that this attack was either deliberate or hit erroneously. Hitting these locations is a war crime under the 1954 Hague Convention.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization reported on June 8 that Russia had damaged 65 religious sites, 27 historic buildings, 17 buildings dedicated to cultural activities, 15 monuments, 12 museums, and seven libraries since it invaded on Feb. 24.

Roughly 40 of the sites that were hit were in the Kharkiv region, slightly less than 40 were hit in the Donetsk region, about 25 in Kyiv, with approximately 10 in Sumy and Luhansk.

President Joe Biden invoked the word “genocide” as he spoke about Ukraine during an event in Iowa in mid-April, though the White House later downplayed the comment as his personal opinion. At the time, he said that it is becoming “clearer and clearer that Putin is trying to wipe out the idea of being Ukrainian,” and he mentioned earlier that “your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away.”

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The United States has not alleged that genocide is happening, and Carpenter referred the decision back to experts. Should they determine a genocide is taking place, it would apply to the whole country, in contrast to war crime investigations, which target individuals.

Throughout the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin has downplayed, if not disregarded, Ukraine’s sovereignty, going as far as to describe the neighboring country as “historically Russian land” and that “modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia or, to be more precise, by Bolshevik, Communist Russia.”

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