Photo 19:10 20 Sep 2023

Ukrainian military joins US officer training program for the protection of cultural values

Фото: Міноборони України

For the first time, the military of Ukraine joined the American program of training officers for the protection of cultural values and held several bilateral meetings.

This was reported in the press service of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Rubryka writes.

What is the problem?

During the year of the full-scale war, 1,332 objects of cultural infrastructure were damaged: theaters, philharmonics, museums, galleries, libraries, and clubs. More than a third of them are destroyed. As of mid-May 2023, the list of destroyed cultural monuments and objects of cultural heritage included more than 620 items.

Photo: Ministry of Defense of Ukraine

What is the solution?

Six Ukrainian officers successfully completed a training program organized by the US Army's Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command and the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative. Ukrainian service members, together with their colleagues from the USA, Great Britain, France, and Poland, underwent an intensive course aimed at preserving cultural heritage in the conditions of armed conflicts.

How does it work?

The training program focused on the exchange of experience regarding implementing and applying the norms of the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of armed conflict. Also, the participants studied the doctrinal approaches, policies, and best practices of the US and other NATO member states regarding the functioning of cultural property protection units in the armed forces.

Recognized American experts in the field of saving cultural heritage shared knowledge, in particular, on the use of modern technologies to analyze the destruction of cultural values and their reconstruction. Special attention of the organizers was paid to the context of the international armed conflict provoked by the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

Colonel Scott DeJessie, who worked directly with this issue, says that not only Ukraine but also other participants benefited from the participation of Ukrainians in the program. Many training elements were based on examples of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict.

"The main thing is that, following the results of this training, Ukrainian officers are confident in the undeniable partnership of the US and other states because they themselves have now become a link in the international network of specialists in the protection of cultural heritage," the expert noted.

The practical classes were based on the realities of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict and related to cultural values destroyed due to hostilities. Ukrainian officers were trained to provide proposals to the military command regarding response to cases of destruction of cultural values through evacuation, restoration, information and psychological operations, etc.

During the course, the speakers were also representatives of non-governmental organizations of Ukraine, which document the destroyed and damaged cultural values in Ukraine.

The graduation ceremony was attended by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the United States, Her Excellency Oksana Markarova, and the Defense Attaché of the Embassy of Ukraine in the United States, Major General Borys Kremenetskyi.

Photo: Ministry of Defense of Ukraine

"I am grateful to the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and the US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command for inviting the Ukrainian military to train with US, Great Britain, France, and Poland officers. This training program is essential for Ukraine because Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine was aimed at destroying Ukrainian statehood, culture, and national identity", stressed Oksana Markarova, the Ambassador of Ukraine to the USA.

In addition, the delegation of the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces visited the military base of the Ground Forces of the US Army, Fort Liberty, where they held several bilateral meetings with the leadership of the military administration and other units of the US Army of various levels.

The parties exchanged experience, reached an agreement on the need to form and introduce a model for the protection of cultural values in the Armed Forces, and agreed on further cooperation.
The Ukrainian delegates informed the partners about the relevant measures taken by the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of Ukraine regarding protecting cultural heritage objects during the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict. In particular, these measures are implemented through the prism of activities in civil-military cooperation.

"Putin says that Ukrainians as a nation do not exist, so it is clear that his attempts to destroy Ukrainian culture are aimed at destroying Ukrainian identity. We are grateful to our partners, in particular the USA, for understanding the importance of this problem and the constant support of the Ukrainian army in the fight against the aggressor," emphasized Lieutenant Colonel Oksana Banoshenko, the representative of the Central Directorate of Civil-Military Cooperation of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In addition, the experience of the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of Ukraine regarding the implementation, application, and dissemination of knowledge about international humanitarian law is also relevant to the issue of the protection of cultural values.

"This visit, participation in the training course, and a number of bilateral meetings with the command of the military administration of the US Ground Forces proved that a Ukrainian model of protection of cultural values should be developed, which would take into account the best international practices, the experience of the use of the Defense Forces, as well as mechanisms and the powers of individual structures in the sphere of protection of cultural values that already exist in the Armed Forces of Ukraine," said Lieutenant Colonel of Justice Inna Zavorotko, the deputy head of the international law department of the Department of Legal Support of the Ministry of Defense.

The partners emphasized the unwavering support of Ukraine in repelling the armed aggression of the Russian Federation and the further expansion of cooperation in the field of protection of cultural values and implementation, application, and dissemination of knowledge about international humanitarian law.

As a reminder, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided to include the objects

"The Saint Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings and Lavra of Kyiv-Pechersk" and "L'viv – the ensemble of the historic centre" to the List of World Heritage in Danger due to the threat of destruction caused by Russian attacks.

Rubryka also reported that on September 8, the UNESCO Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict held an extraordinary meeting to strengthen the protection of cultural heritage in Ukraine, including providing temporary enhanced protection to 20 cultural heritage sites and also decided to conduct trainings on the protection of cultural heritage for the Ukrainian military and judicial structures.

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