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Ukraine museums in a scramble to protect antiquities from Russian attacks

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A statue outside the Latin Cathedral in Lviv, western Ukraine, is wrapped up to protect it from potential damage. DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images
A statue outside the Latin Cathedral in Lviv, western Ukraine, is wrapped up to protect it from potential damage. DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images.
  • Ukrainians in Lviv's museums have been packing up displays out of fears the ancient artifacts could be destroyed.
  • Volunteers are packing the items away in banana boxes for storage.
  • Lviv has so far not faced the missile attacks hitting cities across the west of Ukraine.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Museums in Ukraine have been scrambling to protect their ancient artifacts by any means possible amid Russian military strikes on the country's towns and cities, a report by CNN shows.

Volunteers at the National Museum in the western city of Lviv are removing items from display in order to store them in the building's basement for safekeeping. Ancient manuscripts – including a 1,000-year-old Bible decorated with gold thread – are packed into cardboard boxes normally used to transport bananas.

The museum has also stashed gold lacquered panels that were recovered from 17th-century Baroque churches in its basement, CNN reported. Some items are being stored in hallways, because the basement is full, as per CNN.

The UN's cultural agency UNESCO said on March 3 that is was "deeply concerned by developments in Ukraine." The organisation's director-general Audrey Azoulay called for "the protection of Ukrainian cultural heritage, which bears witness to the country's rich history, and includes its seven World Heritage sites," including those located in Lviv and Kyiv.

Lviv has so far not been targeted by the Russian missile and artillery attacks that have destroyed buildings in some cities in the east of the country. The city has become a hub for Ukrainians fleeing major cities like the capital Kyiv, many of whom are planning to leave Ukraine for neighbouring countries.

"We need to take care of our heritage because this is our national treasure," Ihor Kozhan, director of the museum, told CNN.

The museum houses around 175,000 artifacts, as per the museum website.

"Today you see empty walls, so it feels bitter, sad. We didn't believe it till the last minute that this could happen," Kozhan told AP.

"Museum has to live. People have to be there, and first of all children. They have to learn the basics of their culture," he added.

Elsewhere in Lviv, volunteers are also packing up historical items out of fears they will be destroyed.

Displays at the Museum of the History of Religion have been dismantled, while statues at the Latin Cathedral have been covered up with cardboard, foam and plastic, as per AP.

Volunteers at the Lviv Foundation for the Preservation of Architectural and Historical Monuments posted a series of images to Facebook on Wednesday showing volunteers boarding up the stained glass windows of the Assumption Church in the city center.

A US defense official said on Monday that the Kremlin had fired more than 625 missiles at targets in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24, but its troops remain stalled north of Kyiv, Reuters reported.

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