The following is the text of a press release issued today by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, addressing the ongoing massive destruction of Ukraine’s cultural heritage by Russian invaders in their war against Ukraine and Ukrainian identity.
Paris, 23 June 2022 – According to a new count, 152 cultural sites in Ukraine have been partially or totally destroyed since the beginning of the war. UNESCO reiterates its call to respect international law and continues its actions in support of cultural professionals in the field.
On Thursday, UNESCO published an updated assessment of the damage caused to cultural sites in Ukraine since 24 February 2022, when Russian offensive began. According to the checks carried out by its experts, 152 cultural sites have been partially or totally destroyed as a result of the fighting, including 70 religious buildings, 30 historical buildings, 18 cultural centres, 15 monuments, 12 museums and seven libraries.
“These repeated attacks on Ukrainian cultural sites must stop. Cultural heritage, in all its forms, should not be targeted under any circumstances. I reiterate my call for the respect of international humanitarian law, in particular the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.
Three-quarters of the damaged sites are in three regions: the Donetsk region, where the fighting is still particularly intense – with 45 damaged cultural sites – the Kharkiv region – with 40 damaged sites – and the Kyiv region – with 26 damaged sites.
Emergency measures are still being implemented
From the outset of the war, UNESCO’s Director-General initiated a series of emergency measures to prevent as much destruction as possible. The Organization provided technical advice to cultural professionals in the field to protect buildings and inventory works, shelters were identified to secure objects that could be moved, and fire-fighting measures were reinforced.
UNESCO also assisted the Ukrainian authorities in marking cultural sites with the distinctive blue shield emblem. This symbol indicates that the property is protected under the 1954 Hague Convention. Therefore, any infringement is considered a violation of international law and can be prosecuted. It should also be noted that none of the 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites have been affected to date.
Laying the foundations for future reconstruction
By recording and documenting the damage and destruction of cultural sites, UNESCO not only warns of the seriousness of the situation but also prepares for future reconstruction. Although it is still too early to start work, the UN organization has already created a fund dedicated to actions in support of Ukraine and has launched an appeal for contributions to its Member States for a rapid response.
With the same objective, UNESCO is in the process of setting up a team dedicated to the protection of cultural property, based in Kyiv, and will soon send a mission of heritage experts to the country.
The list of partially or totally destroyed Ukrainian cultural sites is available online at the following link. It is updated weekly by UNESCO.
Press contact: Thomas Mallard,
+33 1 45 68 22 93
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