Sep 25, 2023 - World

UNESCO: Ukraine world heritage sites endangered by Russian invasion

Saint Sophia Cathedral, one of the endangered sites, in Kyiv, Ukraine, in August 2022.

Saint Sophia Cathedral, one of the endangered sites, in Kyiv, Ukraine, in August 2022. Photo: Yurii Stefanyak/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

Two world heritage sites in Ukraine risk being damaged from Russia's military attacks on historic cities, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) warns.

Driving the news: UNESCO said in a statement on Monday that it included on the List of World Heritage in Danger sites Lviv's historic center and a cathedral complex in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv "due to threats linked to shelling."

  • "Inclusion on the List of World Heritage in Danger further strengthens local conservation measures. It also opens the door to international technical and financial support, as well as signaling the importance of helping to protect these sites," UNESCO said.

The big picture: The two protected sites join Odesa's historic city center as areas listed as endangered by the Russian military invasion.

Of note: Even though Russia has been a member of the World Heritage Convention for decades, its military has repeatedly targeted and damaged cultural sites in Odesa's center.

  • As a member of the convention, Russia had to pledge to avoid actions that would harm heritage sites in other countries.
  • Putin's forces severely damaged an 18th-century Orthodox church and killed two people in a missile attack in July. UNESCO denounced that attack and warned that it may amount to a war crime if the act was deliberate.
  • The attacks came despite assurances from Russian officials that the country's military was taking precautions to spare heritage sites, UNESCO said in an earlier statement.

Details: Kyiv's Saint Sophia Cathedral has been a heritage site since 1990.

  • The cathedral and the monastic complex around it are key symbols of Ukraine. A monument of 11th-century architecture, it was a stronghold of early Orthodox Christianity and contributed to its expansion across Europe.
  • Lviv's city center has been a protected site since 1998. After its founding in the late Middle ages, it has remained a administrative, religious, commercial and cultural hub for hundreds of years.

What they're saying: UNESCO World Heritage Committee said ahead of adding the two sites to the list that faced "with the risk of direct attack, these sites are also vulnerable to the shockwaves caused by the bombing of the two cities."

  • It said they "have remained under permanent threat since the start of the invasion on 24 February 2022."

Zoom out: The committee, which was meeting in Riyadh until Monday, voted this month to add 42 new heritage sites to the list.

  • Others included a Guatemalan archeological area that dates back to the early rise of the Mayans and the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks in Ohio.

Go deeper: Zelensky calls Russia's actions in Ukraine "clearly a genocide"

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