June 25, 2024

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Unesco beefs up protection for 20 cultural heritage sites in Ukraine

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Unesco is stepping up measures for safeguarding cultural heritage in Ukraine by granting “provisional enhanced protection” to 20 cultural properties especially at risk since Russia invaded the country last year.

The cultural properties on the Unesco enhanced protection list will benefit from the “highest level of immunity from military attacks”, Unesco claims; sites listed include the dendrological park “Sofijivka” in Uman, a landscape garden created in 1796, and the tomb of 19th-century Ukrainian poet and artist Taras Shevchenko in Kanev.

“The Unesco Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict held an extraordinary meeting [on 7 September] to strengthen the protection of cultural heritage in Ukraine,” says a Unesco statement.

During the meeting, the Unesco Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention committee adopted a declaration “deploring that serious damages were caused by Russian missile strikes to historical buildings of cultural significance within properties in L’viv, Odesa and Chernihiv.”

The 1954 Hague Convention is described by Unesco as a comprehensive multilateral treaty dedicated exclusively to the protection of cultural heritage in times of peace as well as during an armed conflict. Unesco says that damaging the newly inscribed properties would qualify as a “serious violation” to the 1954 Hague Convention and its Second Protocol, which was adopted in 1999 to further the provisions of the original convention.

The tomb of 19th-century Ukrainian poet and artist Taras Shevchenko in Kanev

Photo: Marina

Unesco continues to list and assess the damage done to Ukrainian cultural sites since the war began in February last year. As of 6 September, Unesco says it has verified damage to 287 sites in Ukraine including 120 religious sites, 27 museums, 107 buildings of historical and/or artistic interest and 19 monuments. Heritage sites recently damaged include St Catherine’s Cathedral, built between 1781-86 in Kherson, which was hit by Russian shelling earlier this month.

Earlier this year the director general of Unesco, Audrey Azoulay, pledged to help rebuild Ukraine’s shattered culture sector after travelling to the country. Azoulay told the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky that “in order to rebuild but also to redress the situation, it will be necessary to invest $6.9bn in the cultural sector in Ukraine over the next ten years”.

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