Ukrainian port city Odessa wins UNESCO status despite Russian resistance

The ancient centre of Odessa, a port city in Ukraine that is sometimes referred to as “the pearl of the Black Sea,” was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List on Wednesday despite opposition from Russia.

With six votes in favour, one against, and 14 abstentions, the world heritage committee’s 21 member nations accepted the city’s designation as a world historic site.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February last year, repeatedly tried to delay the vote to recognise the site’s “outstanding universal value” and “the duty of all humanity to protect it”.

“While the war continues, this inscription embodies our collective determination to ensure that this city, which has always surmounted global upheavals, is preserved from further destruction,” said UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay after the decision.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, hailed the decision. He had asked for the classification in October to protect the city from Russian bombing. “Today Odessa got UNESCO protection,” he said on Twitter. “I’m grateful to partners who help protect our pearl from the Russian invaders’ attacks,” he added.

Since the Russian invasion, Ukrainians have hastily tried to use sandbags and barriers to try to safeguard the city’s landmarks and structures.

The site was also added to the List of World Heritage in Danger, which UNESCO says “gives it access to reinforced technical and financial international assistance” to protect or, if necessary, rehabilitate it.

The agency also stated that it has already assisted with repairs for damage sustained at the Odessa Museum of Fine Arts and the Odessa Museum of Modern Art since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war.

(With inputs from agencies)

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