Hundreds of Ukrainian heritage sites were damaged by Russian bombing

“It’s an entire identity affected by this subversion.” In an interview with AFP, Lazar Eloundo Asomo, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Center, reported the destruction of a large number of historical monuments, which are symbols of Ukraine’s history.

The director of the UNESCO World Heritage Center warned in an interview with AFP on Wednesday that the strip of 100 Ukrainian heritage sites had been completely damaged or destroyed since the start of the Russian military offensive on Ukraine on February 24 is about to cross.

Signatories to the 1954 Hague Convention, Ukraine and Russia are obligated to protect cultural heritage in the event of armed conflict, assures Cameroonian Lazar Eloundo Asomo, noting that “Deliberate destruction of sites marked with the blue emblem” of the Convention can be considered a war crime.

What conclusions can we draw on April 13th?

The strip of 100 destroyed or completely destroyed sites will be crossed on Thursday or Friday, and this morning they are in 98 listed sites and memorials in eight regions of the country.

Among these sites, there are historical monuments, some dating back to the eleventh centuryAndtwelvethAnd Centuries and others for architecture of the Soviet era from the beginning of the 20And From the last century, there are also churches and cathedrals with unique ritual objects, theaters, such as the Mariupol Building, libraries and other archive buildings, monuments built for the glory of the history of Ukraine.

The number of casualties could rise further: there are cities that are starting to arrive and where we are beginning to see that the damage may be more serious than we imagined, and there are other places where the fighting has intensified or will escalate in the coming days, so we remain very concerned. It’s a drama, a full story, a complete identity, affected by this devastation. Some of these sites and monuments will take time to rebuild and others may not.

The war is still going on and some areas are still inaccessible. How do you determine the locations?

Information comes to us from the Ukrainian authorities, and we cross it with information that comes to us from heritage specialists and with the press in this field. We also have a partnership with Unitar-Unosat, the United Nations’ satellite hub, which allows us to get satellite images. By transmitting all this information, we can confirm the degradation status of the respective sites. The best damage check is of course going to the field, what we do is the first stage check.

As for the seven sites classified by UNESCO as World Heritage, they have not been damaged so far, according to the information we have.

What measures have been taken to prevent the destruction and bombing?

We are in close contact with Ukrainian professionals who take risks every day to preserve their history and heritage. We give them technical advice and equipment, for example to deal with fires and explosions.

In the event of war, there is smuggling that can happen, which is why UNESCO has called on countries, especially neighboring countries, to be careful about heritage and cultural objects that can come from Ukraine, and we are working with INTERPOL and with our partners to prevent this.

Covered statues in the Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, also known as the Latin Cathedral in Lviv, western Ukraine, March 5, 2022. Daniel Leal / Agence France-Presse

As mentioned recently, both Ukraine and Russia have signed the 1954 Hague Convention, and therefore they have an obligation to protect cultural heritage in the event of an armed conflict. In particular, this agreement states that in the event of hostilities, buildings shall be marked with the emblem of the 1954 agreement – blue shield – and that such buildings cannot be deliberately targeted or be collateral victims of fighting or bombing. It is a violation of international law, and it can also be considered a war crime, which is why we encouraged and help the Ukrainian authorities to do these signs, which is what they started in Kyiv.

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