Dozens of sites of considerable cultural import have been damaged by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, UNESCO and its sister agency UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) said on Friday, voicing concerns about the preservation of cultural heritage.
“We are very concerned about both the situation at the humanitarian and [cultural] heritage levels. Humanity’s heritage is in danger [in Ukraine],” UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture Ernesto Ottone told a news conference on Friday.
UNESCO went on to say that as many as 53 sites of cultural importance had been damaged in the fighting in Ukraine, including 29 religious sites, 16 historic buildings, 4 museums and 4 monuments. This list, however, does not include sites in the besieged cities of Mariupol or the city of Kherson that has been captured by Russia.
Damage to the aforementioned sites was confirmed by UNESCO using satellite images and witness reports. Among them, UNESCO said more than a dozen sites were in the Kharkiv region in the east that has endured intense Russian shelling over the past few weeks. Meanwhile, five of the damaged sites are located in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, while another five are in the Chernihiv region of northern Ukraine that is home to many other sites of historical and cultural importance.
However, the agency said that none of the seven World Heritage sites in Ukraine have been damaged thus far, and a spokesperson added that UNESCO was “working with the Ukrainian authorities to list the priority sites and define the terms of this deployment.”
The update provided by UNESCO on Friday comes two weeks after the agency sent a letter to Moscow, reminding it of its obligations to protect sites of cultural heritage during a conflict, as per international law.
“Any violation of these norms will see the perpetrators brought to international responsibility,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay had warned in her March 17 letter to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.