By Jaya Ramachandran
PARIS (IDN) — Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February 2022, has denounced the decision of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to designate the historic centre of Odesa a World Heritage in Danger site.
Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, criticised the designation, saying the only threat to Odesa came from the “nationalist regime in Ukraine”.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee awarded the status to the strategic port city on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast in an extraordinary meeting in Paris on January 25.
In view of the threats to the city from Russia’s armed forces and irregulars, the World Heritage Committee used an emergency procedure provided for by the World Heritage Convention.
The panel was acting on Ukraine President Zelensky’s official submission in October 2022.
The World Heritage in Danger enables access to financial and technical international aid. Ukraine may request this to ensure the protection of the property and, if necessary, assist in reconstruction if attacked.
Since Russia’s aggression, the strategic port city on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast has been confronted with threats. UNESCO’s decision recognizes the outstanding universal value of the site and the duty of all humanity to protect it.
“Odesa, a free city, a world city, a legendary port that has left its mark on cinema, literature and the arts, is thus placed under the reinforced protection of the international community,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.
“While the war continues, this inscription embodies our collective determination to ensure that this city, which has always surmounted global upheavals, is preserved from further destruction.”
The decision commits the 194 States Parties of the Convention—which includes Russia—not to undertake any deliberate step that may directly or indirectly damage the World Heritage site and to assist in its protection.
As early as the summer of 2022, UNESCO linked international experts with Ukrainian experts to prepare the nomination, with the support of Italy and Greece.
In parallel with the inscription process, UNESCO implemented emergency measures on the ground to help protect the site.
Notably, the Organization ensured repairs were carried out following damage inflicted by Russian attacks on the Odesa Museum of Fine Arts and the Odesa Museum of Modern Art.
So far, the historic western Ukrainian city has not come under the kind of sustained bombardment that laid waste to the once-thriving port city of Mariupol, hundreds of kilometres to the east.
UNESCO also provided equipment for the digitization of nearly 1,000 works of art and of the formal collection of the Odesa State Archives. Equipment was also delivered to protect the buildings as well as open-air works of art on display.
These measures are part of UNESCO’s overall action plan for Ukraine, which has already mobilized more than $18 million to preserve education, science, culture and information as the battle for control of the country rages on. [IDN-InDepthNews – 28 January 2023]
Image: The historic Ukrainian city of Odesa. Credit: Alexander Alabin
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