Odesa, the Black Sea’s largest port and a key transit hub for Ukraine’s grain exports, is roughly seven miles from the frontline of the Russian invasion. Its cultural treasures include the Odesa Fine Arts Museum, an early 19th-century palace which housed more than 12,000 works before the war. Museum staff removed most of the collection for safekeeping months ago; the building has been damaged by Russian artillery fire.
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Ukrainian culture minister Oleksandr Tkachenko and UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay said they had expedited the nomination process of Odesa, which involves an assessment by World Heritage Committee.
If Odesa is added to the World Heritage List, the city would be legally protected under the Geneva convention, meaning that if it is attacked by Russian forces, there could potentially be consequences.
The agency has also asked the World Heritage Committee to add the Saint-Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv and the historic center of Lviv, both already recognized as UNESCO sites, to its list of endangered sites.
According to UNESCO, 175 Ukrainian cultural and historic sites have been damaged since Russia launched its invasion in February. Among them are monuments, museums, libraries, and religious buildings.
In July, Russia began an aerial assault on Odesa, which resulted in the destruction of part of the Odesa Museum of Modern Art’s glass canopy and windows. The Odesa Museum of Modern Art was also damaged. UNESCO will fund repairs to both museum and finance the hiring of additional staff dedicated to safeguarding their collections, and aid efforts to digitize artworks and provide protective equipment.