As the war continues in Ukraine, more than 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced and the death toll is in the thousands. Physical markers of Ukraine’s cultural heritage are also destroyed.
According to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, at least 53 Ukrainian sites suffered extensive damage during the war. “We are holding damage control meetings every day, and the list of damaged sites keeps growing,” UNESCO director Ernesto Ottone Ramírez told a news conference, according to the report. New York Times.“We are very concerned about the situation, from a humanitarian point of view and for the protection of heritage. It is the heritage of humanity that is in danger.”
Damaged sites include religious sites, historic buildings, museums and monuments. “Our experts continue to verify each report and it is feared that more sites will be added to this list,” said a UNESCO spokesperson. NPR.
Ukraine has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the historic city center of Lviv. In Lviv, citizens wrap historical monuments in plastic in an effort to save them before possible Russian attacks.
Among the damaged sites is the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in kyiv, where the Nazis murdered thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.
After Babyn Yar was damaged, President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Twitter, “What’s the point of saying ‘never again’ for 80 years, if the world remains silent when a bomb falls on the same site of Babyn Yar?” Zelensky, who is Jewish and whose family was killed in the Holocaust, added: “History repeats itself…”
The next session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is scheduled for Kazan, Russia. Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukrainian Minister of Cultural Affairs, asked the organization to move the session.
“The Russian Federation, which cynically destroys everything in its path with its own hands, cannot be the organizer of the session and a participant in the organization!” Tkachenko posted on his Telegram account and wrote that Russia should be suspended from UNESCO because it violates the Hague and Geneva Conventions.
Both Russia and Ukraine are signatories to an act of the 1954 Hague Convention intended to protect cultural property during armed conflict. “If cultural sites are marked with a blue shield – the emblem of the convention – it means that they are under the protection of the convention”, NPR Explain. “If attacks are committed against these sites, says UNESCO, the perpetrators will be held responsible for acts constituting war crimes.”
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