Tue, 21 Mar 2023

Unesco has added the historic centre of Ukraine's port city Odesa to its World Heritage in Danger List because of threats of destruction that have been hanging over the site since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

The 21 member states of the Unesco's world heritage committee approved inscribing designated areas of the Ukrainian city with six votes in favour, one against and 14 abstentions.

"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," said Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay.

Although generally spared since the beginning of the Russian offensive in February 2022, Odesa, notably known for its monumental Potemkin staircase and its architecture, has nevertheless been hit several times by Russian bombing.

"This is a huge victory for the people of Odesa and for the whole of Ukraine," the city's mayor, Gennady Troukhanov, told RFI.

"Odesa has the status of a European city, it was built by great Italian architects, it was administered by the French, the Greeks. It was originally a European city. That's why I feel joy and pride, especially because this is happening at a time when our armed forces are defending our independence. Our soldiers are now fighting for every piece of our land. We fought for our city, to preserve its cultural heritage," added Troukhanov.

'Politically motivated decision'

After the decision was adopted, Russia's mission to Unesco claimed in a statement that the vote had been taken under pressure from the West and disregarded the rules of procedure.

The mission said the world heritage committee had ceased to be a platform for professional dialogue. "World heritage status has become a bargaining chip for settling political scores," it added.

In Moscow, Russia's foreign ministry accused a group of Western countries of pushing through what it called a politically motivated decision in violation of standard procedures.

Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who requested the listing in October to shield the city from Russian bombardment, welcomed the decision.

"Today Odesa got Unesco protection," he tweeted. "I'm grateful to partners who help protect our pearl from the Russian invaders' attacks."

Six other Ukrainian sites have already been inscribed on the Unesco's World Heritage List, including the Saint-Sophia Cathedral in the capital Kyiv and the historic centre of the western city of Lviv.

(With AFP)

Originally published on RFI

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