Historic Ukrainian sites in Kyiv and Lviv added to UN danger list

Historic Ukrainian sites in Kyiv and Lviv added to UN danger list
  • PublishedSeptember 17, 2023

Major historical sites in two Ukrainian cities are in danger of destruction due to the war with Russia, the UN’s heritage body Unseco has said.

They include the iconic Saint Sophia Cathedral in the capital, Kyiv, and the medieval buildings of the city’s Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery site.

The historic centre in the city of Lviv has also been placed on Unesco’s List of World Heritage in Danger.

It said the conditions to fully protect the sites could not be met.

“Faced with the risk of direct attack, these sites are also vulnerable to the shockwaves caused by the bombing of the two cities,” the group said its World Heritage Committee had concluded.

It added that the inclusion of the sites on the list was a reminder to UN member states about their responsibility to contribute to their protection and would “open the door” to further financial and technical aid.

Russia has assured the UN that its armed forces are taking “necessary precautions” to prevent damage, though this is disputed by Ukraine.

The latest additions to the danger list come after the Ukrainian port city of Odesa was added in January – nearly a year after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Odesa has come under heavy bombardment by Russia in recent months following the collapse of a deal allowing Ukraine to export its grain to the world through the Black Sea.

A church that has been boarded up in Lviv
Image caption,Historical buildings have had to be boarded up in Lviv to protect them from bombing

Russia’s bombing of Ukraine has sometimes drawn criticism from Unesco. In July, the organisation condemned the bombing on a building just outside Lviv’s historic old town.

The city was founded in the Middle Ages and has maintained much of its architectural and cultural heritage as an administrative, religious and commercial centre from the 13th to the 20th centuries. It was added to the World Heritage List in 1998.

The Saint Sophia Cathedral, meanwhile, was built in the 11th century and was designed to rival the Hagia Sophia in modern-day Turkey, which was then part of Constantinople. It is one of the few surviving buildings from that age.

Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, otherwise known as Kyiv’s Monastery of the Caves, was founded at around the same time as the cathedral.

It is the oldest monastic complex of the Rus people, who lived in eastern Europe during the Middle Ages, and became a prominent spiritual and cultural centre.

There are currently more than 50 properties on Unesco’s danger list. Other sites at risk include the Old City of Jerusalem, Vienna’s historic centre and the tropical rainforest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.


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