Ukraine wants UNESCO to expel Russia, lists destroyed cultural heritage

Ukraine is preparing a bill of a resolution appealing to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to expel Russia from its ranks. The stated reason for the appeal is the destruction of cultural heritage perpetrated by Russia in the course of their invasion launched against Ukraine.

The draft of the resolution was submitted to the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy. It reads:

“Ukraine has always shared the core principles of [UNESCO] and cared for the cultural heritage that is located in our territory. But artillery shelling, air and missile strikes launched by the Russian Federation and its leadership are aimed at destroying Ukraine's centuries-old historical and cultural heritage,” states the text of the drafted resolution. “In view of this, Ukraine considers it unacceptable for the Russian Federation to be present in UNESCO. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine calls on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to deprive the Russian Federation of the status of a UNESCO member state.

The Parliament of Ukraine has also called on the global community of cultural scholars to support the programme of adequate funding for the restoration of historical and architectural monuments of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information Policy has recently announced that it had already recorded 353 war crimes committed by the Russian army against the cultural heritage of the country, most recently the deliberate bombing of the recently-restored cultural and community centre in Lozova, Kharkiv Region, which was deliberately targeted for serving as a centre for humanitarian aid distribution.

The invaders destroy and plunder our museums, theatres, churches. But they cannot break our spirit,” said Oleksandr Tkachenko, the Minister of Culture and Information Policy. “Our losses are the cultural losses of the world community. After all, the heritage of Ukraine is closely connected with the European and world,” he added and stressed that destruction of cultural heritage is a war crime under the 1954 Hague Convention and must be prosecuted.

The Kharkiv Region, which saw heavy fighting since the start of the war was worst affected in terms of destruction of cultural heritage, with 94 such instances, and 78 in the city and its immediate area alone. The second worst affected area was the Donetsk Region, with 72 crimes of the destruction of cultural heritage recorded, 52 of them in the city of Mariupol alone, which has been reduced to a sea of ruins following a lengthy siege of the city. The capital of Kyiv and the Kyiv Region reported the destruction of 65 such sites. The least affected areas were in the south and the west of the country.

The list also breaks down the damage into categories. Of the 116 heritage sites listed, constant shelling, rocket and bomb attacks led to the destruction of 21 monuments of national importance, 88 of local importance, and 7 of newly discovered objects of cultural heritage. Deputy Minister of Culture and Information Policy Yekaterina Chuyeva stated that the invaders are not even sparing places of worship, with 130 religious buildings damaged or destroyed, of which 49 are registered as monuments of history, architecture, and urban planning. “This is a purposeful action by the invaders against Ukrainian spirituality. The barbarians spare neither Orthodox nor Protestant churches, nor mosques or synagogues,” added Ms Chuyeva.

The list of the destroyed pieces of cultural heritage is closed by a list of over a hundred monuments honouring historical figures and events, cultural centres, libraries, theatres, and museums.

Destruction of infrastructure

While church steeples make for great practice targets for the Russian invaders. They have not limited themselves to only destroying cultural heritage. The Ukrainian General Staff has also reported increased use of air force in targeting critical infrastructure.

“The enemy continues to launch missiles and air strikes on the territory of our State. They increased the intensity of the use of aviation to destroy critical infrastructures of settlements in the active combat zone,” read an announcement posted early on Sunday morning on the General Staff’s official Facebook page.”

According to Oleksander Kubrakov, the Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure the damage caused by the Russians to infrastructure amounts to anything between EUR 28 billion and EUR 38 billion. “There is nothing that would not have been hit,” said Mr Kubrakov in an interview given to the Italian ADNkronos news agency.

Similarly to the destruction of cultural heritage, Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions were the hardest hit. As a result of the Russian invasion, a total of 300 bridges, 23,000 km of roads, 6,000 km of railway tracks, and 20 railway stations were destroyed. Minister Kubrakov added that every aeroport in the country has been attacked at least once, and the Kyiv and Dnipro aeroports have been bombarded numerous times. The port facilities in cities along the Black Sea coast continue to be bombarded, effectively paralysing their operations.

The latter fact is of particular importance due to Ukraine’s status as a major producer of food, especially grain. The total of all food and other goods exported by Ukraine amounted to 150 mln tonnes annually, of which 70 percent was done through Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Road, rail, and river transport cannot make up for the loss of access to sea routes. Minister Kubrakov has however pointed out that Ukrainian authorities have been co-operating with Poland, Romania and Slovakia to facilitate the export of Ukrainian goods.