At least 98 Ukrainian cultural and religious sites have been damaged or destroyed during Russia’s invasion of its neighboring country, the United Nation's cultural agency UNESCO said Wednesday.
The shelling in Ukraine has so far hit heritage sites in eight regions of the country, including some from the early mediaeval era to others seen as landmarks of early Soviet architecture, Lazare Eloundou Assomo, UNESCO’s director of world heritage, told Agence France-Presse.
He said the number of affected sites could increase as fighting intensifies in eastern Ukraine while some sites elsewhere in Ukraine are only now becoming accessible after earlier shelling.
"Some of these sites and monuments will take time to rebuild and others probably cannot be rebuilt at all,” he said.
UNESCO has used satellite images and witness reports to verify information provided by the Ukrainian authorities about the damaged sites.
None of the Ukrainian sites confirmed as damaged are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage list, such as the Saint-Sophia Cathedral and monastic buildings of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra in the capital.
But Eloundou Assomo warned that any targeting of buildings bearing the UNESCO-backed Blue Shield that signals cultural heritage "is a violation of international law and could also be considered a war crime."
UNESCO's Director General Audrey Azoulay reminded Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a mid-March letter of Russia's obligations under an international convention to protect cultural heritage during conflict.
Some material in this report came from Agence France-Presse.