In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United Nations’ cultural agency (UNESCO) announced on Tuesday that it had strengthened protective measures to preserve the country’s endangered cultural heritage.
In a statement, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said, “The first challenge is to record cultural heritage sites and monuments and emphasize their particular status as protected regions under international law.”
The agency is identifying cultural sites and monuments in Ukraine with the distinctive “Blue Shield” logo of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict to prevent deliberate or accidental damage.
“The labeling with the Treaty’s emblem also derives from the fact that Russia and Ukraine are two nations that have ratified this important convention,” UNESCO World Heritage Centre director Lazare Eloundou Assomo told Reuters.
“We agree to uphold international treaties when we ratify them,” he said, adding that UNESCO was monitoring all places in Ukraine where cultural heritage was at risk.
The agency examines damage by analyzing satellite imagery for priority sites that are vulnerable or already harmed, in collaboration with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).
According to the UNESCO statement, the monitoring system has now covered a dozen such sites.
The Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and adjoining monastic buildings are among the sites on the World Heritage List, according to UNESCO.
According to Eloundou Assomo, UNESCO is also monitoring Odessa, a city in southern Ukraine.
He stressed the need of identifying the sites, saying, “We are not waiting for the media to act.”
On Wednesday and Thursday, UNESCO will meet with Ukrainian cultural experts, including World Heritage Site managers and museum directors, to see if they require technical or financial help.