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UNESCO 'deeply concerned' for historic sites in Ukraine

UNESCO 'deeply concerned' for historic sites in Ukraine
United Nations officials said they are “deeply concerned” for the survival of historic cultural sites in Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, including the Saint-Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv. Photo courtesy Rbrechko/Wikimedia

March 5 (UPI) -- United Nations officials said they are "deeply concerned" for the survival of historic cultural sites in Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said in a statement Thursday that the agency is "working to assess damage" to such sites across Ukraine.

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Ukraine is home to several sites listed for protection and preservation because of their global significance, including seven World Heritage sites.

Such sites include a large area in the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, which was founded in the Middle Ages. That site, called the Ensemble of the Historic Center, consists of the Lviv High Castle and its surrounding area as well as St. Yuri's Cathedral.

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The Saint-Sophia Cathedral, another protected UNESCO site, is located in the capital city Kyiv which has undergone constant shelling from Russian forces in the past week.

"We must safeguard this cultural heritage, as a testimony of the past but also as a vector of peace for the future, which the international community has a duty to protect and preserve for future generations," UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.

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"It is also to protect the future that educational institutions must be considered sanctuaries."

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Azoulay noted that the cities of Odessa and Kharkiv, where Russian forces have intentionally targeted residential buildings, are members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Last year, the United Nations Security Council, on which Russia holds a permanent seat, adopted a resolution that requires member states to "prevent attacks and threats of attacks against schools and ensure the protection of schools, including children and teachers during armed conflict."

UNESCO strongly condemned attacks against education facilities in Ukraine "with the damaging of at least seven institutions in the past week" including an attack on the Karazin Kharkiv National University on Wednesday.

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The agency also condemned an attack that affected the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial which remembers one of the largest mass shootings of Jews during World War II.

Officials at the memorial said in a statement that the existing memorial was not damaged during shelling but that a missile hit the nearby Avangard sports complex, which was intended to become the home of the Holocaust Memorial in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

UNESCO said it would be working with Ukrainian authorities to mark historic monuments across the country not already identified by the agency for cultural preservation.

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