Kyiv and L’viv have been inscribed on UNESCO’s list of historic sites in danger due to the threat posed by Russia’s invasion and ongoing war in Ukraine.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, currently convened in Riyadh until 25 September 2023, has announced that Kyiv’s gold-domed Saint Sophia Cathedral and related labyrinth of monastic buildings and Lavra of Kyiv-Pechersk (also known as “Monastry of the Caves”) should be listed as endangered, calling them “a masterpiece of human creative genius.”
In L’viv meanwhile, 500 kilometers away (300 miles) near the Polish border, it’s the ensemble of the historic centre that is considered threatened, including its fifth-century castle, squares and streets dating from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, as well as Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic edifices representing the city’s history of diversity and “an outstanding example of the fusion of the architectural and artistic traditions of Eastern Europe with those of Italy and Germany,” UNESCO said.
The two sites join the historic centre of Odesa, which was placed on the threatened list in January 2023.
Monitoring and funding
Putting places of outstanding universal value on the list of historic sites in danger acts as a reminder to the international community to “monitor and contribute to” their protection, a press release by UNESCO notes. It also means additional financial and technical aid can be released in order to take emergency action.
Ukraine’s Deputy Culture Minister Anastasia Bondar embraced the measure. “We are very happy to have a very rich history and culture of our country, and we would like to say that it has been over thousands of years, and we try to preserve it for our future generations,” she said. “So it’s very much important that the whole world community will join us also.”
The 1972 UNESCO convention has been ratified by both Ukraine and Russia. Signatories commit to “the protection of the listed sites” and are “obliged to refrain from taking any deliberate measures” which might damage World Heritage sites.
Direct attacks and shockwaves
Though the UNESCO committee recognised efforts by Ukraine to protect the sites, it points out they have been “under permanent threat” since the start of the war, with direct attacks as well as shockwaves from bombing elsewhere part of the risk.
Residential areas in Kyiv and critical city infrastructure have been attacked with Iranian-made attack drones. L’viv too has been attacked, even though it is very far from front lines. A July attack by cruise missile hit an apartment building, “killing six and wounding dozens” according to the AP.