Dozens of Ukrainian cultural sites damaged in Russian invasion

UNESCO says its is ‘very concerned’ about Russia’s war in Ukraine and that ‘humanity’s heritage is in danger’.

Dozens of cultural sites including churches, historic buildings and museums have been damaged by the war in Ukraine, the United Nations cultural agency said.

UNESCO said last month it had bolstered protective measures for Ukraine’s endangered cultural heritage in light of Russia’s invasion, such as using a “Blue Shield” emblem to mark its cultural sites and monuments.

“We are very concerned about both the situation at the humanitarian and [cultural] heritage levels. Humanity’s heritage is in danger [in Ukraine],” Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for culture, told a news conference on Friday.

UNESCO said that overall 29 religious sites, 16 historic buildings four museums and four monuments are confirmed to have been damaged in Ukraine.

The sites UNESCO said have been damaged include more than a dozen in the eastern Kharkiv region that has been intensely hit by Russian fire, ranging from churches to more modern heritage sites.

Five are in the capital Kyiv while another five are in the Chernihiv region of northern Ukraine which is home to a cluster of historic sites.

In a letter sent on March 17, UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay reminded Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s of Russia’s obligations to protect cultural heritage during conflict under an international convention.

“Any violation of these norms will see the perpetrators brought to international responsibility,” she said, adding that UNESCO would be watching closely the state of cultural heritage in Ukraine.

Having initially said Moscow had not responded, UNESCO later said it had received an answer, in which Russia said it was aware of its obligations and was “committed” to them.

At talks this week, Moscow, which calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to demilitarise the country, said it would reduce offensives near Kyiv, the capital, and the nearby city of Chernihiv to build trust.

Kyiv and its allies say Russia is pulling troops out of those areas, not as a goodwill gesture but to regroup, because they have taken heavy losses.

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