The United Nations’ cultural agency decided on Wednesday to add the historic centre of Ukraine’s Black Sea port city of Odessa to its list of endangered World Heritage sites.
The decision was made at an extraordinary session of the World Heritage Committee in Paris.
UNESCO director general Audrey Azoulay praised the move, saying the “legendary port that left its mark in cinema, literature and arts” is “now placed under the reinforced protection of the international community.”
“As the war is still going on, this inscription shows our collective determination to ensure that this city … is preserved from further destruction,” she added according to a UNESCO statement.
The city has been subjected to artillery attacks and air strikes by Russian forces on multiple occasions since the beginning of the war last year.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in October called on UNESCO to grant Odessa World Heritage status, and the UN body agreed Wednesday while directly adding it to the endangered list.
Under the 1972 UNESCO convention, ratified by both Ukraine and Russia, signatories undertake to “assist in the protection of the listed sites” and are “obliged to refrain from taking any deliberate measures” which might damage World Heritage sites.
Inclusion on the List of World Heritage in Danger is meant to “open access to emergency international assistance mechanisms, both technical and financial, to strengthen the protection of the property and help its rehabilitation,” according to UNESCO.
Ukraine is home to seven World Heritage sites, including the St. Sophia Cathedral and related monastic buildings in the capital Kyiv.
To this date, none of the six cultural sites have been damaged by the war — the seventh site being ancient and primeval beech forests, the UNESCO said. Some damage has been noted to more than 230 cultural buildings in the country, it added.
On its website, UNESCO describes Odessa as the only city in Ukraine that has entirely preserved the urban structure of a multinational southern port town typical of the late 18th-19th centuries.