Threatened by the war in Ukraine, the historic center of Odessa World Heritage Site | War in Ukraine

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Threatened by the war in Ukraine, the historic center of Odessa in the world heritage | War in Ukraine

The statue of the Duke of Richelieu in Odessa, Ukraine, has was covered with sandbags to resist Russian attacks.

The historic center of Odessa in Ukraine was inscribed on UNESCO's List of World Heritage in Danger on Wednesday due to 'threats of destruction' hovering over the site since the start of the Russian invasion , a decision deemed “political” by Moscow.

During a sometimes stormy extraordinary session of the World Heritage Committee in Paris, the inscription of this city, in the midst of war, was voted 6 to 1 – Russia. There were 14 abstentions.

Odessa, a free city, a world city, a legendary port which has left its mark on cinema, literature and the arts, is thus placed under the reinforced protection of the international community, welcomed the Director General of the Organization of the United Nations for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay.

Although generally spared since the start of the Russian offensive in February 2022, Odessa, known in particular for its monumental Potemkin staircase and its architecture, has been hit several times by Russian bombardments.

The conflict constitutes a danger for the historic center of Odessa, whose cultural heritage is threatened with destruction, had estimated the representative of ICOMOS, a specialized NGO partner of UNESCO, in presenting the case. She also insisted on the multiethnic, multiconfessional and multicultural character of Odessa.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, the Russian Foreign Ministry denounced a political decision taken by a group of countries belonging to the collective West, with the blatant help of the UNESCO Secretariat, which has lost its impartiality.

Russia, which multiplied the procedural maneuvers during the session, had earlier protested against a superficial file, accusing the Ukrainian authorities of having mounted a candidacy on the basis of a copied- pasted from the Wikipedia page on Odessa.

It's a diplomatic victory, reacted for his part the first deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, Emine Djeppar, on the side of the #x27;Ukraine, whose President Volodymyr Zelensky announced in October the candidacy of the historic center of Odessa.

The Odessa National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater is the oldest theater in the city.

The President of Ukraine in his daily address praised the protection provided by the world, [while] Russia can only provide terror and destruction. shelling.

Given the threats to this heritage since the beginning of the war, the World Heritage Committee had recourse to an emergency procedure, underlined in a press release UNESCO, recalling also having ensured the repair of damage inflicted since the beginning of the war on the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Modern Art in Odessa.

In view of the context, the file was eminently political. Even before the opening of the session, Ukraine had protested in an open letter to the members of the committee against the reference made to Empress Catherine II of Russia as the founder of Odessa in the end of the 18th century.

The development of Odessa as a port city dates back to the 15th century, the Ukrainian authorities protested in their open letter.< /p>

In November, the Odessa city council voted to unbolt the statue of Catherine II, based on the result of a local consultation. The monument to the Tsarina, which for many has become a symbol of Russian oppression since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, was removed at the end of December.

Odessa, located 500 km south of the Ukrainian capital kyiv, is very symbolic for Russia. It was the third city of the Russian Empire and its second port.

In April 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted that it historically did not part of Ukraine, but of Novorossia (New Russia) which he would like to see incorporated.

The listing of Odessa as a heritage world constitutes one of the highest levels of protection that the international community offers to a heritage site, recalls UNESCO. The In-Danger List provides access to strengthened mechanisms for international emergency, technical and financial assistance, she adds.

The World Heritage Committee stands meets once a year and is composed of representatives of 21 States Parties to the Convention.

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