Odesa: UNESCO strongly condemns repeated attacks against cultural heritage, including World Heritage
23 July 2023
Paris, 23 July 2023 – UNESCO is deeply dismayed and condemns in the strongest terms the brazen attack carried out by the Russian forces, which hit several cultural sites in the city center of Odesa, home to the World Heritage property ‘The Historic Centre of Odesa’.
The attack took the lives of at least two people, according to preliminary reports, and damaged a number of significant cultural sites, including the Transfiguration Cathedral, the first and foremost Orthodox church in Odesa founded in 1794. This act of hostility comes only days after other attacks that impacted many cultural heritage sites in areas protected under the World Heritage Convention in Lviv and Odesa.
“This outrageous destruction marks an escalation of violence against 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,” said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s Director-General.
The Director-General of UNESCO visited Odesa on April 4, 2023 to meet with World Heritage site managers and stakeholders from the cultural sector. She took stock of the emergency actions undertaken by UNESCO to protect this exceptional heritage threatened by war.
UNESCO will continue to engage with the World Heritage site managers, local and national authorities to identify urgent needs for assistance.
In the coming days, UNESCO will field a mission to Odesa to conduct a preliminary assessment of damages.
These attacks contradict recent statements by the authorities of Russia concerning the precautions taken to spare World Heritage sites in Ukraine including their buffer zones.
Intentional destruction of cultural sites may amount to a war crime, as acknowledged also by the United Nations Security Council - of which the Russian Federation is a permanent member - in Resolution 2347 (2017).
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