Russia violates international conventions that protect heritage

Russia violates international conventions that protect heritage

There are several "reported but unconfirmed" cases of heritage destruction. the president of The Blue Shield (Blue Shield) is Peter G. Stone and he tells that they need to send a mission to Ukraine "as soon as possible to verify these claims as quickly as possible so that important evidence is not lost." The international, independent and neutral non-governmental organization was created in 1996 to help protect cultural property in the event of armed conflict. The Blue Shield has no people working in Ukraine. It is a volunteer organization dedicated to ensuring that all parties to an armed conflict "take all possible precautions" under the 1954 Hague Convention.

Putin blows up a museum with works by the greatest Ukrainian painter

Putin blows up a museum with works by the greatest Ukrainian painter

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Its president anticipates that they are preparing a team to visit Ukraine when the conflict ends to collect information on damage and destruction of cultural property. "Assuming they allow us access," says Peter G. Stone. For its part, UNESCO is working with the Ukrainian authorities, pointing out from this weekend the places and cultural monuments with the "Blue Shield" emblem", in order to avoid deliberate or accidental damage.

On March 2, as this newspaper has learned, its president wrote to the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation, Anton Kuznetsov, to remind him that the Russian army is obliged to respect cultural heritage. The Russian Federation has signed the 1954 Hague Convention, which specifies (in its first protocol) the protection of cultural property in the event of conflict. Article one of this treaty clarifies that all forces of the Russian Federation fighting in Ukraine will act in strict compliance with their responsibilities to safeguard and respect all cultural property in Ukraine. Furthermore, he should have taken all feasible measures to identify and protect all assets before and during the invasion of Ukraine.

It is also a state party to the World Heritage Convention of 1972, in which the World Heritage sites inscribed on the famous and precious UNESCO list are protected. These landmarks are recognized as being of "outstanding universal value" for all mankind. By virtue of these commitments made by Russia, Putin's army is obliged, like the rest of the signatory States, not to take any action that damages the world heritage in its own territory or in that of other States. That means that no cultural institutions (museums, libraries or archives), sites or monuments, historical or religious buildings will be attacked by Russian troops. Are there penalties for the violation against the estate? The Hague Convention does not contain the list of punishable offences. The preparation and adoption of specific sanctions is a matter for each State Party.

Objective: heritage

The chairman of Blue Shield has been blunt with Russia's culture minister: "I draw particular attention to the World Heritage site in Kiev, Saint Sophia Cathedral and related monastic buildings (Pechersk Lavra), which is at serious risk to suffer damage from the Russian Federation's attacks on the city".

Why do you think the cathedral is in danger? "It is at risk if the troops of the Russian Federation bombard Kiev without due care and consideration. It is unlikely, although not impossible, that it will be a specific objective," Peter G. Stone responds to this newspaper. However, in a war like this, no cultural property is safe: "All heritage is at risk from so-called "collateral" damage-destruction. There are already reports of intentional attacks against cultural heritage, but they have not yet been verified. independently The Blue Shield has identified the threats for heritage during the armed conflict," he says, referring to Ukrainian sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Stone has reminded the Russian Culture Minister in writing that no cultural collections may be moved from their current locations to locations in the Russian Federation. The danger of looting is evident in a war. Finally, he calls for all necessary support and protection from the Ukrainian authorities to help safeguard all cultural property in Ukraine. A week has passed since he wrote the letter and, as Stone indicates to this newspaper, he still has not received a response from Anton Kuznetsov.

destroyed heritage

The formal heritage protection mechanisms mentioned seem to have been damaged. The Ukrainian Minister of Culture has published a first list of assets destroyed by the Russian army: the extraordinary building of the Kharkiv Philharmonic Society has been damaged; the Ivankin museum (near Kiev), where a significant number of paintings by Maria Prymachenko were kept, has been destroyed; the Kharkiv church, damaged; the Church of the Ascension in Bobryk (in the Kiev region), destroyed. Other attacked churches have appeared on networks, such as an Orthodox near Zhytomyr, built in 1862, another Orthodox in the town of Vyazivka (Zhytomyr region) and that of Saint George, in the Brovary district (Kiev), from 1873.

Given the escalation of attacks on cultural heritage, the president of the organization The Blue Shield has sent the president of the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property of UNESCO a list of cultural property in Ukraine. It recommends that the aforementioned landmarks be added "immediately" to the list of cultural assets under enhanced protection under the 1999 protocol of the 1954 Hague Convention. "For these places to appear on the list it is necessary that the Ministry of Ukraine's Defense confirm that they are not used for military purposes, nor that their registration would serve to protect sites that are used for military purposes," explains Stone.

Precisely UNESCO has raised its voice for the first time. It says it is "gravely concerned" about threats to Ukrainian cultural heritage, after the invasion has displaced two million people. The international organization says it has done a damage assessment on Tuesday and is concerned about the damage caused in the cities of Kharkiv and Chernihiv, which have sites on the "provisional list" for possible nomination for World Heritage status. "We must safeguard the cultural heritage in Ukraine as a testimony to the past and as a basis for peace and cohesion in the future. The international community must protect and preserve it," said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

Assets under surveillance

UNESCO, in collaboration with UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research), is also analyzing satellite images of priority sites, at risk or already affected. This is how they assess the damage. "To date a dozen priority sites are already covered by this monitoring system, including sites on the World Heritage list," says Lazare Eloundou Assomo, director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

The International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH) has allocated an initial allocation of two million dollars for the emergency protection of Ukrainian heritage and its professionals. "Many sites, monuments and museums have been damaged. This conflict raises serious concerns about its consequences for all of Ukraine's heritage," they indicate from the agency, which defines itself as a useful, concrete and agile tool to protect heritage. "It's a race against time," they add.

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