Odessa declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Odessa, Ukraine/ Photo: Nina Liashonok/Ukrinform / Sipa Press / Profimedia

The historic center of the Ukrainian port city of Odessa has been declared an endangered world heritage site by the United Nations cultural agency, despite Russian opposition, reports "BBC". UNESCO said its decision recognized the "outstanding universal value" of the site.

But Russia criticized the move, saying it was "politically motivated".

Known as the "Pearl of the Black Sea", Odessa has been bombed several times since Russia invaded Ukraine. Last year, residents rushed to protect monuments and buildings in the city by covering them in sandbags.


UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said the declaration of the city as a World Heritage Site was an important step.

"First there was a symbolic aspect which is to say that this city belongs to the world heritage, it concerns all of us, we all see it and recognize its history and its contribution to the heritage," she said. "It's already an important symbolic aspect."

Azoulay said the decision also meant that all parties to the convention, including Russia, would have an obligation "not to commit willful destruction" of the world heritage site.

Parts of Odessa were also added to the list of World Heritage in Danger, which UNESCO said gives the city access to technical and financial assistance, "which Ukraine may request to ensure the protection of the property and, if needed, to help in his rehabilitation."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the decision, saying he was "grateful to the partners who are helping to protect our pearl from the attacks of Russian invaders."

Russia, which has repeatedly tried to postpone the vote, has in turn accused Ukraine of "destroying" its own monuments.

Ukrainian lawmaker: Putin sees Odessa as a holy city, so he wants to conquer it

Moscow's foreign ministry also accused Ukraine of submitting a poor application file and claimed the vote was conducted "under pressure from the West" while "disregarding business rules".

"It was prepared hastily, without respecting the current high standards of UNESCO," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Seven other sites in Ukraine have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, including the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in the capital Kyiv and the historic center of the western city of Lviv.

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