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Damage to Ukrainian heritage sites continues to increase


The damage to Ukrainian cultural heritage now runs into billions, says UNESCO.

The Russian military invasion of Ukraine is not only causing human suffering, the list of damaged heritage is also growing. In April 2023, UNESCO, the UN heritage organization, listed 248 damaged monuments, most of them religious sites. The report estimated the damage at approximately 2.4 billion euros. Just under a year later, UNESCO added about a hundred damaged heritage sites, bringing the total to 341. That’s what Le Monde writes. The damage is now estimated at 3.3 billion euros. Moreover, not all damage has been measured, which is simply impossible, says Chiara Dezzi Bardeschi in Le Monde. She heads the UNESCO office in Kiev.

To determine the extent of the damage, UNESCO relies on satellite images, supplemented where possible with observations in the field. A specialized center was set up for this purpose in Lviv. With support from the Getty Institute in Los Angeles and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, 1,600 people have been trained. But it’s a tough fight: a lot of theft is happening and the illegal trade is flourishing, especially in old coins, according to Le Monde. Additional problem: in most Ukrainian museums the inventories are incomplete and sometimes not digitized.

Other cultural sectors are also in need because of the war: the film industry, publishers and individual artists are experiencing tough times. According to UNESCO, a budget of around $9 billion (8.7 billion euros) is needed to rebuild the cultural fabric and restore destroyed heritage sites, according to Le Monde. That is far from easy at a time when support from Western countries is drying up and media attention has focused on the conflict between Israel and Hamas since October 7, the newspaper adds.

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