It is a warning cry. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) announced on Thursday June 23 that its experts had counted 152 cultural sites totally or partially destroyed in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022. .

In detail, according to verifications carried out by Unesco teams, 70 religious buildings, 30 historic buildings, 18 cultural centers, 15 monuments, 12 museums and 7 libraries were affected. Among the notable sites, Unesco cites in particular the Ivankiv museum in kyiv, totally destroyed, or the national opera house in Kharkiv, which was also hit by bombs. The list of Ukrainian cultural sites partially or totally destroyed is updated weekly by Unesco.

“These repeated attacks on Ukrainian cultural sites must stop. Cultural heritage, in all its forms, can never be targeted. I reiterate my call for respect for international humanitarian law, in particular the Hague Convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict”warns Audrey Azoulay, director general of Unesco, in a press release.

Damage concentrated in the east of the country

Logically, the main damage is concentrated in regions that have faced a direct invasion by Russian troops. According to Unesco, three-quarters of the damaged sites are in the Donetsk region, where the fighting is still particularly intense – with 45 cultural sites damaged – that of Kharkiv – 40 damaged sites – and that of kyiv – 26 damaged sites .

The interior of the local history museum in the city of Mariupol, which was destroyed during the Russian offensive.   (VALERY MELNIKOV / AFP via SPUTNIK)

The interior of the local history museum in the city of Mariupol, which was destroyed during the Russian offensive.   (VALERY MELNIKOV / AFP via SPUTNIK)

To stem this wave of destruction, Unesco and the Ukrainian authorities mark cultural sites with the distinctive emblem of the blue shield. This symbol indicates that the item is protected under the 1954 Hague Convention. “Therefore, any infringement is considered a violation of international law and can be prosecuted against its perpetrators”notes Unesco.

The only good news for the moment is that none of the seven UNESCO World Heritage sites has been affected to date by the Russian strikes.

A support fund for Ukraine

If no way out for an imminent end to the war in Ukraine seems to be emerging, Unesco has already launched a support fund for the Ukrainian world of culture. Member States of Unesco are called upon to contribute. The objective is to collect sufficient funding for the reconstruction of certain destroyed sites.

But while the Russian troops continue their advance in the Donbass by still very violently bombarding many localities, no reconstruction site has obviously been able to be started for the moment.

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