Freemuse condemns the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and remains concerned about the horrific consequences of Russian aggression on artistic and cultural communities who remain in Ukraine or have been forced to flee.
Since Russian aggression in Ukraine began on 24 February 2022, enormous suffering has been inflicted the on people of Ukraine. The Russian military have undertaken actions resulting in a loss of civilian life and severe destruction of households and infrastructure. It has also forced the exodus of civilians, with more than two million people leaving Ukraine in the first two weeks of aggression.
Artistic work and cultural heritage sites are not exempt from this destruction. The indiscriminate bombing on locations across Ukraine has caused severe and irreversible damage to the historical centres of cities. In the Ukrainian city of Harkiv, heavily bombed by Russian troops, an opera house and concert hall were hit by shells, and at least 30 listed heritage sites have been destroyed or seriously damaged. A museum in Ivankiv, north of Kyiv, was destroyed, including 25 works by the most renowned Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko.
In parallel to the war against Ukraine, Russia persecuted its citizens who opposed the war. Since 24 February, 13,912 people were arrested across Russia for peacefully protesting against the war. Freemuse has documented at least eight cases of artists being arrested, including 77-year-old painter and activist Yelena Osipova, known for her colourful and artistic protest banners. Artists have also been exposed to threats, such as film critic Anton Dolin who announced on 6 March 2022 that he left Russia after finding a Z symbol, used by Russian military to mark army equipment that invaded Ukraine, and also used by those who support the invasion painted on the door of his apartment.
The ongoing crackdown on free media further limits the availability of information on persecution across Ukraine and Russia. In this regard, Freemuse emphasises the paramount work of Russian-based human rights organisations such as OVD Info, as, without their work, the persecution of people would remain unknown. In January 2022, Freemuse and OVD Info, alongside Coming Out, submitted a report to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations highlighting the nuanced mechanisms that the Russian state implement to restrict artistic and political expressions.
More than 17,000 artists and cultural workers in Russia have signed an open letter denouncing the war despite all the pressures and persecutions.
Between 7 and 8 March, European Ministers for Culture met and pledged to support institutions "willing to host Ukrainian artists, journalists and cultural and media professionals, in order to allow them to continue their activity and thus preserve their freedom of creation and expression." This great news followed an open letter signed by Freemuse and more than 50 partners across Europe, alongside 800+ individuals, condemning the horrifying invasion of Ukraine by Russia and calling for national governments, the European Commission and world leaders to make funds and support measures available so cultural and other civil society organisations can continue to actively support Ukrainian colleagues.
Freemuse stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and courageous people in Russia that are opposing the war.