Defend Truth


Russia’s destruction of Ukrainian heritage in numbers


Liubov Abravitova is the Ambassador of Ukraine to South Africa.

The foundation of our Sophia of Kyiv was laid in 1017, so it is, at the very least, 130 years older than the capital of Russia. That is why Putin is trying to extinguish our culture — he wants to steal it like they are stealing everything else, and then say it’s theirs.

I want to start today by sharing a satellite image. They say a picture is worth a hundred words, and I agree: the hundreds of little dots you see on the ground in the photo below are shell craters.

(Photo: Maxar Technologies)

We can clearly see them because this is an image of Russian forces shelling a field. And this photo clearly demonstrates what Russian shelling is: they don’t care where they fire, how many bombs and missiles they send our way as long as they destroy everything and everyone.

The same sort of shelling is done by Russia in our cities, with the only difference being that you don’t see the creators, just ruins. This is how they’ve destroyed half of our beautiful cities of Kharkiv, Izum, Chernihiv, Sumy and Borodyanka.

Volnovakha and Mariupol are both completely burnt to the ground. Ninety percent of our beautiful city on the Azov sea — Mariupol, a city that almost half a million people called their home — is fully destroyed and now has a huge chance of a cholera outbreak due to completely ruined infrastructure and hundreds of uncollected bodies in the streets.

As Russian missiles continue raining down on Ukraine, the country is beginning to understand that this is our new normal and will be so until we claim victory.

As Russian bombs keep falling and destroying our lives, we see people going to and from work, we see restaurants and cafes reopening their doors, we see Ukrainians coming back to clean their de-occupied cities and rebuild their homes. As Russian bombs keep destroying our homeland, we honour our fallen heroes and new ones take a step forward to protect our nation from a war-hungry dictator.

As we are nearing the end of the fourth month of Russian bombs trying to erase Ukraine, we are stronger than ever and will continue standing our ground for as long as it takes. It’s now 117 days of Russia “taking Kyiv in three days”, and the 117th day of a dictator trying to annihilate us so he can steal our land and our history.

Today, you have to be either blind or ignorant to still pretend that Putin is only attacking military sites in Ukraine. Putin, a man stuck in the USSR in a time before the internet or new technologies entered the world stage, seems to think that all of us are stuck right there with him. We are not. Meaning, all Russia’s lies can be fact-checked and debunked in real time, all their war criminals are found within seconds with simple face recognition software, every Ukrainian citizen has a phone with a camera; we have drones, satellites and a strong will to document everything.

It is rather sad, though mostly laughable in 2022, that Putin doesn’t know what kind of power a smartphone with access to the internet gives a person.

These are the documented and verified data on Putin’s mission to annihilate anything Ukrainian: as of 27 May we’ve documented almost 370 war crimes committed by Russia against our cultural heritage.

As of 13 June, Unesco has updated the list of the registered and verified damaged cultural sites in Ukraine: I’m sad to say the number rose to 146. A hundred and forty-six — is the number for our destroyed museums, churches, historic buildings, libraries, and so on. This number doesn’t include schools, kindergartens, or universities.

Those statistics are beyond horrifying and inhumane. On 18 May, our Ministry of Education and Science released staggering data: in three months Russia has damaged or completely destroyed 1,800 educational facilities, with 161 bombed beyond repair and 1,611 heavily damaged and incapable of holding any sort of classes.

Furthermore, our Ministry of Information policy recently released data based on an in-depth analysis of the satellite maps of Russian attacks where you can clearly see and track Russia’s attacks on our museums, cultural sites, universities, schools, and so on.  

Firefighters at the site of a bombed school in Bilohoryvka village. (Photo:

Now, there is no doubt whatsoever that Russia is intentionally attacking our precious cultural sites and these are unmistakably war crimes under the 1954 Hague Convention. Putin probably can’t handle that we have gorgeous buildings in Kyiv that are much older than Moscow.

The foundation of our Sophia of Kyiv was laid in 1017, so it is, at the very least, 130 years older than the capital of Russia. That is why Putin is trying to extinguish our culture — he wants to steal it like they are stealing everything else, and then say it’s theirs. Imagine attempting a genocide of 40 million people because you desperately want to steal their history. We are now writing our own history with Ukrainian heroism, and we’ll make sure that Moscow stays in its place where it belongs — more than a century behind. DM


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 1

  • So Mr Ramaphosa I’m just wondering which part of the above narrative you don’t understand ? You say you’ve been offered some (unspecified) role as a mediator. I think you need to first engage with the Ambassador here so she can brief you in full on the Ukrainian side of the story. And then – if you really do want to play the mediator role – you need to do so on your own terms. Which means perhaps accepting that the relentless destruction described above is a little more than an “unfolding situation”. And try negotiating with the Russians accordingly. Not that the “unfolding situation” in Zim (which has been with us for years) gives us much confidence in your government’s role as a mediator. Allow me however to wish you well and express the hope that you have better negotiating skills than your predecessors.

  • Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted