Russia Swipes Potemkin's Remains From Ukraine

Bones of Prince Grigory Potemkin stolen from Kherson church for their own 'protection': official
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2022 10:28 AM CDT
Official: Russia Stole Icon's Bones From Ukraine to 'Protect' Them
Potemkin's grave in Kherson, Ukraine.   (Wikimedia Commons)

Russia has held a grip on the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson and its capital of the same name since the earliest days of the war. Kherson is also one of the four regions that were illegally annexed by Russia earlier this month. But Ukrainian forces have been pushing hard to take back that land, and Russia claims that hard push is what led to its own forces stealing the bones of a national icon. That icon, per the Independent, is Prince Grigory Potemkin, the 18th-century Russian general who founded the city and whose remains had been interred in Kherson's St. Catherine's Cathedral.

The Telegraph reports that a "special team" was sent to yank Potemkin's remains—kept in a small black bag inside a casket—out of the cathedral. Vladimir Saldo, who's the Russian crony now leading the region, says the prince's bones were moved for their own safety. "We will bring him and all the relics back to where they belong," Saldo says. Potemkin also helped the Russian Empire annex Crimea from the Crimean Tatar state in 1783 by convincing his lover, Catherine the Great, to do so (the peninsula was transferred to Ukraine in 1954).

Sources who've visited the crypt tell the New York Times that to reach the remains, the thieves would've had to have "opened a trapdoor in the floor and climbed down a narrow passageway," then made their way to "a simple wooden coffin on a raised dais, marked with a single cross." No one knows where the remains are now, or what Russia plans to do with them next, though one historian predicts they'll be trotted out in a "chillingly crass ... spectacular of ultranationalism." Potemkin isn't the only long-dead military leader targeted for removal from Kherson in recent days: The Independent notes that monuments dedicated to Russian Gen. Alexander Suvorov and Fyodor Ushakov, a navy admiral, have also been force-exited from Kherson. (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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