On January 24-25, the 18th extraordinary session of the World Heritage Committee, which is responsible for the implementation of the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, took place at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Although declared as a technical event held to approve the timeframe and the site for the upcoming regular meeting, the extraordinary session has created yet another political scandal.
A group of countries of the “collective West,” using direct support from the no longer objective UNESCO Secretariat, have pushed through a politically biased and scientifically unsubstantiated decision to inscribe the Historic Centre of the Port City of Odessa on the World Heritage List “in the face of threats of destruction.” The decision was prepared hastily and in violation of UNESCO’s high standards. Thereby, the Western countries have again demonstrated their disregard for the rules of procedure at the World Heritage Committee and readiness to sacrifice the once high prestige of UNESCO and its basic 1972 Convention, which marked its 50th anniversary last year, to short-term geopolitical interests.
It is notable that two thirds of the Committee member states did not support the questionable move initiated by the Kiev regime’s handlers: the decision was taken by six out of 21 votes.
We do not question the cultural heritage and the glorious past of Odessa in the Russian state, and it is logical that it has been inscribed as a heritage site in the face of destruction. However, it should be clarified that the only threat to that city with a rich history comes from Ukraine’s nationalist regime, which has been systematically destroying monuments to the great founders and defenders of Odessa, namely, Empress Catherine II and her associates: Iosif Deribas, Platon Zubov, Francois-Paul Sainte de Wollant, Prince Alexander Potyomkin and Generalissimo Alexander Suvorov, who are integral to the centuries-old historical and architectural heritage of the city. In 2022, a monument to the city’s defenders from the Nazi invaders was torn down there. In early January 2023, vandals disfigured the Temple of the Miraculous Image of Christ the Saviour in Odessa, destroying the fresco icons of Tsar Nicholas II the Passion-Bearer and Holy Righteous Warrior Feodor Ushakov. Parts of historical buildings located within the inscription area or its buffer zone have been on the verge of collapsing for the past few years.
UNESCO should have separately condemned the deployment and use of military facilities and weapons in the Port City of Odessa. But nobody has uttered as much as a word about that, for some reason.