16:30 10 Aug 2023

UNESCO report on Russian strikes in Odesa could aid ICC investigation

Photo: Telegram/ Oleh Kiper/ Odesa State Administration

The UNESCO mission will prepare a comprehensive report on the damage caused by the missile strikes of Russia on the world heritage site in Odesa.

The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine reported this.

What is the problem?

After withdrawing from the grain agreement, Russia terrorized southern Ukraine with nighttime shelling for several days.

During the shelling on July 19-23 in Odesa, the buildings of three museums were damaged, and the Savior and Transfiguration Cathedral was also partially destroyed.

According to preliminary estimates, 29 monuments of cultural heritage of national and local significance were damaged.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization condemned the Russian attack on cultural heritage in Odesa, including World Heritage sites. It said it would send a commission to assess the damage.

President Volodymyr Zelensky commented on the missile attack and promised that the enemy would get a response that they would definitely feel.

What is the solution?

As Chiara Dezzi Bardeschi, head of the UNESCO Office in Ukraine, noted at the briefing, the task of the mission was to conduct a comprehensive technical assessment of the damage caused to cultural and religious values in the period from July 20 to July 23. This included inventorying and documenting facilities, assessing structural integrity, and visually inspecting the stability of buildings to determine the extent of their damage.

How does it work?

Specialists visited more than 50 buildings with complex damage, some of which had up to 60-80% damage. They dismantle their current ones for the preservation and restoration plan of the buildings and also digitize the badly damaged buildings, particularly the Savior and Transfiguration Cathedral and the House of Scientists.

The head of the UNESCO Bureau also said that the organization has mobilized urgent funding for the first works through an emergency fund provided by various donors.

The mission will prepare a comprehensive report for the meeting of countries participating in the Hague Convention in December. This report can be used as evidence in international courts.

"UNESCO does not have a mandate to investigate. Instead, UNESCO's detailed documentation can be used by relevant authorities. There have been examples of this in the past, including the case of heritage damage in Timbouktou, Mali in 2013. UNESCO's documentation was used by the International Criminal Court for an investigation," Chiara Dezzi Bardeschi said.

It should be noted that Italy will help Ukraine with the restoration of the cathedral in Odesa, which was damaged after a Russian missile strike.

For reference:

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is an international organization, a specialized institution of the United Nations, which, with the cooperation of its member states in the fields of education, science, and culture, promotes the elimination of illiteracy, the training of national personnel, development of national culture, protection of cultural monuments, etc.

At the beginning of 2013, the number of participating countries was 195. In 2011, it included 193 member countries; non-governmental organizations (approximately 250) have consultative status with it. In 2017, Israel and the United States announced their withdrawal from the organization.

The main center of UNESCO is located in Paris (France).

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