UNESCO Counts Cultural Sites Damaged in Ukraine

UN agency has reminded Russia of its obligation to avoid harming protected places
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2022 10:50 AM CDT
UNESCO Assesses War's Toll on Cultural Sites
The tail of a rocket sticks out in a memorial to the thousands of Polish officers killed in 1940 by Soviet secret police in the Katyn massacre, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 23.   (AP Photo/Andrew Marienko)

(Newser) – While the fighting rages in Ukraine, UNESCO is assessing the damage being inflicted on the nation's cultural sites. The agency announced that it's confirmed damage during the Russian invasion to at least 53 sites through Saturday, NPR reports, mostly in the north or east of Ukraine. "This is the latest list, but it is not exhaustive, as our experts are continuing to verify a number of reports," a UNESCO spokesperson said, per AFP. The UN agency works from media and government reports, which it verifies through satellite images and witness accounts.

UNESCO's director general reminded Russia last month of its obligation to spare heritage sites. Russia, as well as Ukraine, have committed to following Hague Convention rules protecting cultural installations. "Any violation of these norms will see the perpetrators brought to international responsibility," Audrey Azoulay wrote Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, per the Guardian. Azoulay included information about the locations of the sites. The convention's emblem, a blue shield, at a site indicates that it's protected and that anyone who damages it will be held responsible.

Ukraine’s culture ministry said Friday it's counted 135 attacks on its cultural heritage, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency said. UNESCO's count includes 29 religious sites, 16 historic buildings, four museums, and four monuments; international organization denounced the damage to a Holocaust memorial on the edge of Kyiv. UNESCO has taken steps to limit the harm, meeting regularly online with site managers. "We assist them in identifying safe havens in which to store items which can be moved, and in assessing and strengthening firefighting procedures," a spokesperson said. (Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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