Potemkin: Russia removes bones of 18th-century commander revered by Putin from occupied Ukrainian city


Pro-Russian officials say they have removed the bones of famous 18th-century Russian commander Grigory Potemkin from the occupied Ukrainian city of Kherson.

Potemkin’s bones were taken from St. Catherine’s Cathedral and move it across the Dnieper River further into Russian-controlled territory along with the statue of the military commander, Vladimir Saldo, the region’s pro-Russian proxy governor, told Crimean television.

“From St. Catherine’s Church and the monument itself, we moved the remains of His Grace Prince Potemkin to the left. [east] in the bank,” said R. Saldo, writes the Russian state news agency “RIA Novosti”.

Potemkin played a major role in the annexation of Crimea from the Turks in 1783, and his memory is central to those in Russia intent on restoring the country’s former imperial reach. Putin relied heavily on his legacy to justify the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Monuments to Navy Commander Fyodor Ushakov and commanders Alexander Suvorov and Vasily Margelov were also removed from the church and moved to an undisclosed location, Saldo said. He added that the relics would be returned when the city became safer.

Prince Grigory Potemkin was an 18th-century Russian statesman, army general, and favorite and adviser of Empress Catherine the Great. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, his name was mentioned several times in the Kremlin. Most recently, in a speech at a ceremony to annex the new territories, Putin cited Potemkin as one of the founders of the new cities in eastern Ukraine, calling the territory Novorossiya, which means “New Russia.”

Potemkin is believed to be behind the plan to conquer Crimea, which Russia first annexed in 1783 after signing a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire. He was later promoted to the rank of field marshal and founded the city of Sevastopol in Crimea, making it the main Russian naval base on the Black Sea. Potemkin’s newly built Black Sea Fleet played an important role in Russia’s success in the Second Turkish War of 1768–1774.

In Russia, Potemkin’s name is most often associated with “Potemkin villages,” a term used to describe veiled facades designed specifically to hide an ugly truth and create a false image of prosperity. The phraseologisation goes back to a debunked historical myth about him putting up picturesque decorations, such as allegedly furnishing cardboard villages with painted ships and cannons, to impress Catherine the Great and her foreign companions during a trip to Crimea after his annexation.

His remains began to be removed as Ukrainian forces attacked the city of Kherson after successful counter-attacks in the surrounding region.

The situation in the city is “tense” because Russia is deploying “many Russian troops” there, a city official told Ukrainian television on Friday.

“People in the occupied territories with whom I speak say that there are more Russian soldiers on the city streets than local residents,” said Halyna Luhova, a member of the Kherson city council.

The UK Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence briefing on Friday that it was “likely” that “mobilised reservists” had been sent to reinforce Russian troops in the regional capital and on the west coast.

Over the past two weeks, the Kremlin-backed Kherson administration has broadcast dire reports of an imminent Ukrainian attempt to retake the city and ferried thousands of residents across the Dnieper River deep into Russian-controlled territory. Ukraine has accused Russia of creating “hysteria” by forcing residents to leave.

Moscow has also begun to reduce its occupation footprint in Kherson. Ukrainian officials say the Russians are evacuating wounded people, administrative offices and financial institutions from the city while sending more troops to reinforce their positions.

Museums and other cultural organizations in Ukraine have been fighting to preserve the country’s artifacts and relics since Russia invaded in February.

In May, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russian forces had destroyed hundreds of culturally significant objects.


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