Russia’s barbaric assault on Cultural Heritage condemned by UNESCO

The Russian forces’ savage attack on various cultural sites in Odesa’s city centre, which is home to the World Heritage place “The Historic Centre of Odesa,” has severely shocked and outraged UNESCO. The organisation strongly condemns Russia’s action.

In recent Odesa shelling by the Russian military significant cultural landmarks like Transfiguration Cathedral were damaged. 

Only a few days have passed after earlier attacks that had an impact on numerous cultural landmarks in Lviv and Odesa that the World Heritage Convention protects.

“I strongly condemn this attack against culture” – UNESCO Director-General

This attack is the second to date in a region protected by the World Heritage Convention that violates the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

Russia bombarded Odesa just two weeks after the strike, damaging historic structures in Lviv. The Culture Centre of Folk Art and Art Education in the nearby city of Mykolaiv, which was destroyed at the same time as this attack, is located 100 kilometres distant.

These assaults contradict recent Russian government assurances about safety measures taken to protect World Heritage sites in Ukraine, particularly their buffer zones.

“This outrageous destruction marks an escalation of violence against the cultural heritage of Ukraine. I strongly condemn this attack against culture, and I urge the Russian Federation to take meaningful action to comply with its obligations under international law, including the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the 1972 World Heritage Convention,” 

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s Director-General.

Appeal letters prepared by the Ukrainian Culture Ministry are being drafted for the Committee of the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

Russia frequently bombards Ukrainian historical sites

During the official visit of UNESCO’s Director-General to Ukraine on April 3, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy informed Audrey Azoulay about the Ukrainian cultural sites destroyed and damaged by Russia, stressing that their total number was about 1,190, as well as the theft and illegal export of Ukrainian cultural property by Russian invaders in the occupied Ukrainian territories.

The Ukrainian President emphasised the unacceptability of Russia’s membership in UNESCO and the importance of a clear and decisive response from the organisation and its bodies to Russia’s war against Ukraine.

On January 25, the historic centre of Odesa was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under an accelerated procedure in Paris.

This is how Russia’s assault on World Heritage was seen by Ukrainian artist Andriy Yermolenko

Ukraine calls on the world to condemn this barbaric crime

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that Russia would be held accountable for the shelling. 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on all states and organisations to “condemn this barbaric war crime”.

The cathedral had been “destroyed twice,” according to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry, by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Giorgia Meloni, the Prime Minister of Italy, according to Reuters, made a statement denouncing the assault and offered Italy’s support for the cathedral’s restoration.

UNESCO is going to send a mission to Odesa in the upcoming days to carry out a preliminary damage assessment.

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