UNESCO reports damage to churches, historical sites and museums in Ukraine News
UNESCO reports damage to churches, historical sites and museums in Ukraine

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Friday said that dozens of churches, historical sites and museums have been damaged amid hostilities in Ukraine.

According to UNESCO, 53 cultural sites have been partially or totally damaged since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. This includes 29 religious sites, 16 historical buildings, four museums and four monuments. However, it does not include Ukraine’s seven listed world heritage sites. UNESCO is particularly concerned about the city of Chernihiv, which has undergone heavy bombings but has not been the subject of much reporting.

Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Culture, said: “We are very concerned about both the situation at the humanitarian and heritage levels. Humanity’s heritage is in danger.”

In the early days of the invasion, UNESCO implemented measures to safeguard heritage sites in Ukraine. The Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict decided to grant $500,000 in financial assistance to support emergency measures. In cooperation with local authorities in Ukraine, UNESCO began t0 mark heritage sites in Ukraine with a blue shield, which is the emblem of the 1954 Hague Convention. If a site is marked with this emblem, it signifies that the site is under the protection of the Convention.

At the start of the conflict in Ukraine, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said: “We must safeguard the cultural heritage in Ukraine, as a testimony of the past but also as a catalyst for peace and cohesion for the future, which the international community has a duty to protect and preserve.” Azoulay also wrote to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, reminding him of Moscow’s obligations under the Convention to protect cultural sites. Lavrov reportedly replied by stating that “the Russian Federation is well aware of its obligations under international humanitarian law, including the 1954 Hague Convention.”

On Friday, UNESCO also called upon professionals and individuals involved in cultural property trade to refrain from “acquiring or taking part in the import, export or transfer of ownership of cultural property” when they had cause to believe that the objects were illegally taken from Ukraine.