On Friday, UNESCO “strongly condemned” the Russian strikes carried out “early Thursday morning” against the city centre of Odessa, which has been a World Heritage site since January 2023.
“According to a preliminary assessment, several museums located within the World Heritage Site suffered damage, including the Archaeological Museum, the Fleet Museum and the Odessa Literature Museum”, stressed the UN organisation for culture, science and education.
“All had been marked by UNESCO and the local authorities with the Blue Shield, the distinctive emblem of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which was therefore “violated” in Odessa, UNESCO denounced.
The Russian attack, “perpetrated just two weeks after the one that destroyed a building” in the historic centre of Lviv (north-west), another world heritage site, also “coincided with the destruction of the Cultural Centre for Popular Art and Artistic Education in the town of Mykolaïv”, regretted the UN institution.
Unesco called for “an end to all attacks on cultural property protected under widely ratified international normative instruments”. “This war is a growing threat to Ukrainian culture”, it insisted, adding that it had recorded “damage to 270 Ukrainian cultural sites” since the Russian invasion began on 24 February 2022.
In January 2023, the historic centre of Odessa, a famous city on the shores of the Black Sea, was included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage in Danger because of the “threats of destruction” hanging over this site as a result of the war, which is all the more at risk because it is close to the port, a strategic infrastructure for Ukraine.
Tensions have been heightened in south-western Ukraine since Moscow rejected an agreement this week on Ukrainian grain exports, which allowed cargo ships loaded with agricultural products to leave Ukrainian ports using protected shipping lanes.