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Ukraine’s city of Odessa gets UNESCO World Heritage in Danger status

The United Nations’ cultural agency, UNESCO, said that it had designated the historical centre of Odessa, a strategic port city on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, a World Heritage in Danger site.

The status, awarded by a UNESCO panel meeting in Paris, is designed to help protect Odessa’s cultural heritage, which has been under threat since Russian attack on Ukraine, and enable access to financial and technical international aid.

Odessa has been bombed several times by Russia since its first attack against Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

In July 2022, part of the large glass roof and windows of Odessa’s Museum of Fine Arts, inaugurated in 1899, were destroyed.

In a statement UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay said that Odessa, “free city, world city, legendary port” had made its mark on cinema, literature and the arts and was thus “placed under the strengthened protection of the international community.”

“As the war continues, this inscription reflects our collective determination to protect this city from greater destruction,” Azoulay said in a statement.

READ MORE: Ukraine wins ‘borshch war’ with Russia as its soup figures in UNESCO list

Earlier on Wednesday, UNESCO inscribed the Landmarks of the Ancient Kingdom of Saba, Marib in Yemen and Rachid Karami International Fair-Tripoli in Lebanon to its list of World Heritage in Danger sites.

The debate over Odessa, however, took hours as Russia unsuccessfully tried to have the vote postponed.

Founded in the final years of the 18th century, near the site of a captured Ottoman fortress, Odessa’s location on the shores of the Black Sea allowed it to become one of the most important ports in the Russian empire.

Its status as a trading hub brought significant wealth and made it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Eastern Europe.

The city’s most famous historical sites include the Odessa Opera House, which became a symbol of resilience when it reopened in June 2022, and the giant stairway to the harbour, immortalised in Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 silent film Battleship Potemkin.

Although the city suffered significant damage in World War Two, its famed central grid square of low-rise 19th century buildings survived mostly intact.

Odessa was one of Ukraine’s main tourist hubs before Russia’s offensive. War changed all that, as the north of Black Sea became a battlezone. Sea mines still occasionally wash up near the city’s shoreline.

READ MORE: Origin of French baguette, Napoleon’s ‘war bread’, now a UNESCO heritage

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