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War in Ukraine: 53 cultural sites damaged by the Russian invasion, according to UNESCO

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Since the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, at least 53 cultural sites have been damaged by bombardments and fighting, according to an analysis by Unesco.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization says these sites include 29 religious sites, 16 historic buildings, four museums and four monuments. However, the list of damaged places “is not exhaustive”, according to a spokesperson for the organization.

Unesco experts continue to analyze satellite images, and on-site observers issue reports for the organization. Asked whether this destruction had been committed by Russian forces, the spokesperson replied: “These 53 sites whose damage we were able to verify include reports made by the Ukrainian authorities”, implying that Moscow was very responsible.

Five of these sites are in the region of Cherniguiv (North) shelled by the Russian army, and five others are in kyiv, 18 in Kharkiv, and some in Zhitomir (west of kyiv), Zaporozhye (South), Donetsk and Lugansk (East). For the moment, Unesco has not been able to identify any damaged site in Mariupol or Kherson, two cities besieged by the Russian army.

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Russia signatory to the Hague Convention

Since the start of the conflict, Unesco has mobilized to protect Ukrainian cultural property and sites. In particular, the organization has worked with the authorities on the spot to mark certain buildings with a distinctive sign of the “Blue Shield”, which comes from the Hague Convention of 1954, in order to avoid deliberate or accidental damage. Saint-Sophie Cathedral in kyiv, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is for example particularly monitored.

Russia is also a signatory to this convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict and therefore has a responsibility in the preservation of Ukrainian cultural sites. “Any violation of these standards will engage the international responsibility of its authors”, recalled the director general of Unesco Audrey Azoulay in a letter sent on March 17 to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

1er last April, Unesco also launched an appeal to all “professionals and the public involved in the trade of cultural property” not to participate in the trade, import or export of property “when they have reasonable grounds to believe that the property concerned has been stolen, unlawfully alienated, that it comes from clandestine excavations, or that it has been illicitly exported from Ukraine.”

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