Nearly 100 Ukraine heritage sites damaged in invasion

An elderly woman walks past the monument to Russian composer Mikhail Glinka surrounded by sandbags outside the Mikhail Glinka Concert Hall that is home of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Philharmonic as local volunteers, historians and museum employees attempt to protect the statue from damage in case of Russian attacks, Zaporizhzhia, southeastern Ukraine. (Photo by Dmytro Smolyenko/Ukrinform/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

  • A total of 98 cultural and religious sites have been damaged since the start of Russia’s invasion.
  • According to UNESCO’s director of world heritage, this number will soon reach and surpass 100.
  • So far, none of those confirmed damaged are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Ukraine.

Almost 100 cultural and religious sites in Ukraine have sustained damage since the start of the Russian invasion on 24 February, the United Nation’s cultural agency UNESCO said on Wednesday.

The estimate represents a near doubling of the previous number UNESCO issued two weeks ago as concern grows over the consequences of the assault on Ukrainian cultural heritage.

“The mark of 100 damaged or totally destroyed sites will be reached on Thursday or Friday — this morning, we are at 98 sites and monuments listed in eight regions of the country,” Lazare Eloundou Assomo, director of world heritage at UNESCO, told AFP in an interview.

He said these included a range of sites, including some from the early medieval era to others seen as landmarks of early Soviet architecture.

“The number could rise still further,” Eloundou Assomo warned, saying some areas were becoming accessible only now while others were the scene of intensifying fighting.

“Some of these sites and monuments will take time to rebuild, and others probably cannot be rebuilt.”

He warned that any targeting of buildings bearing the UNESCO-backed Blue Shield that signals cultural heritage “is a violation of international law and could also be considered a war crime.”

UNESCO uses satellite images and witness reports from the scene to verify information provided by the Ukrainian authorities.

None of those confirmed damaged are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Ukraine, such as the Saint-Sophia Cathedral and the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastic buildings in the capital.

However, the historic center of Chernigiv, which has seen damage in heavy fighting, is on the Tentative List, meaning Ukraine wants it considered for World Heritage status.

“As for the seven sites classified as World Heritage by Unesco, they have not been damaged, according to the information we have,” Eloundou Assomo said.

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

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