The Ukrainian Zelensky calls for UNESCO cultural protection for Odessa

The Ukrainian Zelensky calls for UNESCO cultural protection for Odessa


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy formally requested on Tuesday that UNESCO add the historic port city of Odessa to its World Heritage List to protect it from Russian air raids.

“We must send a clear signal that the world will not turn a blind eye to the destruction of our common history, our common culture, our common heritage,” he told the 58 member states of the United Nations Cultural Guard in pre-recorded video.

“One of the steps for this should be the preservation of the historical center of Odessa – a beautiful city, an important port of the Black Sea and a source of culture for millions of people in different countries.”

Known as the Pearl of the Black Sea, Odessa prospered after Empress Catherine the Great decreed in the late 18th century that it would be Russia’s modern maritime gateway.

Tsar Alexander appointed France’s Duc de Richelieu as governor, who oversaw the construction and whose statue still stands on the iconic Potemkin Stairs.

But since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Ukrainians have been trying to protect their monuments and buildings with sandbags and barricades.

“Odessa, like all other cities in Ukraine, is a target of Russian attacks,” said the Ukrainian president.

“Please support Odessa! Show clearly at UNESCO level that Russian terror must be ended.”

The UN culture agency said Ukraine’s application would be considered during the next World Heritage Committee meeting, without giving a date.

A place on the World Heritage List for Odessa “would recognize the Outstanding Universal Value of this site and the duty of humanity as a whole to protect it.”

“Legally, it would create an extended protection zone” under the 1972 World Heritage Convention, it said.

Both Ukraine and Russia have signed the convention, which prohibits states from “taking intentional actions that could directly or indirectly damage the cultural and natural heritage of others”.

Six cultural sites in Ukraine are already inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including the St. Sophia Cathedral in the capital Kyiv and the historical center of the western city of Lviv. So far, none have made it onto the UNESCO list of World Heritage in Danger.

According to UNESCO, no Ukrainian cultural site that is on the World Heritage List has been hit by the war so far.

But Zelenskyy said Russian strikes had damaged 540 more “cultural heritage objects, cultural institutions and religious buildings” since the February 24 invasion.

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