UN says more than 150 Ukrainian cultural sites destroyed by Russian war

PARIS, France — UN experts have confirmed the total or partial destruction of 152 cultural and historical heritage sites in Ukraine since Russia invaded the country, its cultural agency said Thursday.

They include museums and monuments, churches and other religious buildings, libraries and other outstanding buildings, UNESCO said in an update of its efforts to help Ukrainian authorities document the damage.

“These repeated attacks on Ukrainian cultural sites must stop. Cultural heritage, in all its forms, should in no way be targeted,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.

His agency helps Ukrainian authorities mark landmarks with the distinctive ‘blue shield’, which means they are protected by the 1954 Hague Convention on Culture in Armed Conflicts, including Russia and the United States. Ukraine are signatories.

However, dozens of sites have been damaged since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, three-quarters of them in the eastern regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk as well as near the capital Kyiv, UNESCO said in its update.

But so far, the seven World Heritage sites in Ukraine have not been affected, such as the Saint Sophia Cathedral and the monastic buildings of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra in the capital.

Ukraine has demanded that Russia be expelled from UNESCO, and the agency has indefinitely postponed a meeting to discuss the status of World Heritage sites Russia was due to host this month in the city of Kazan.

UNESCO has warned that Russian troops or officials found guilty of knowingly destroying Ukrainian heritage sites could be prosecuted under international law.

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