Russia war damages €3.3bn worth of Ukraine heritage

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused around €3.3 billion worth of damage to the country’s heritage and cultural sites, a United Nations agency has said.

Culture, tourism, and entertainment have lost a combined $19 billion in revenues since the Russian invasion in February 2022, the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural organisation UNESCO said.

Last year, the Paris-based organisation estimated the damage at nearly $2.6 billion.

According to UNESCO, which used satellite images to assess the damage, some 5,000 sites have been destroyed, including more than 340 sites such as museums, monuments, libraries and religious venues.

That figure stood at 248 sites as of April last year.

The Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa was badly damaged by a Russian strike in July last year

Two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the medieval centre of the western city of Lviv and Odesa in the south, were among those hit hard by Russian strikes.

Chiara Dezzi Bardeschi, the organisation’s representative in Ukraine, singled out Odesa’s Transfiguration Cathedral, a “symbol for the whole community”, which was badly damaged by a Russian strike in July last year.

Founded in 1794 and destroyed by the Soviets in 1936, the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa was rebuilt in the 2000s with donations.

It was consecrated in 2010 by the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill.

The cathedral has “a religious and spiritual value” for the city but can no longer be used by the community, Bardeschi said.

Seven cultural sites and one natural site in Ukraine are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List including the historic centre of Odesa.

Sixteen other sites are on UNESCO’s tentative World Heritage sites list, awaiting a formal application by the government in Kyiv to be given World Heritage status.

Russian shelling kills five across Ukraine – officials

Russian strikes have killed five people across Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said, as the second anniversary of Moscow’s invasion approaches.

Officials said civilians were killed in the northeast, south and central parts of the country.

Moscow-installed occupational authorities in eastern Ukraine, meanwhile, said Ukrainian shelling killed three people.

The head of the northeastern Kharkiv region, Oleg Synegubov, said three people were killed in his region, which borders Russia and has seen increased attacks in recent months.

Mr Synegubov said a 61-year-old woman was killed when Russian forces shelled the city of Vovchansk that lies seven kilometres (four miles) from the Russian border.

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“At the time of the shelling, people were at the local market,” he said.

The official said “two civilian men” were also killed earlier in the morning when Russia shelled an “agricultural enterprise” in the village of Kurylivka, near the city of Kupiansk.

Moscow’s forces have for months attacked Kupiansk, which fell to Russia in the first days of its invasion in 2022 but was retaken by Ukraine later that same year.

Separately, the head of the southern Kherson region said an elderly woman was killed when Russian forces shelled the village of Lvove, on the Ukrainian-controlled bank of the Dnipro river.

A tank firing in the direction of Bakhmut earlier this week, during clashes between Russia and Ukraine

“An 83-year-old woman received injuries incompatible with life in the yard of her own house,” Oleksandr Prokudin, the regional leader, said on social media.

Authorities in the central Dnipropetrovsk region said a 64-year-old man was killed in the city of Nikopol, also on the Dnipro river.

Russia’s occupational authorities in eastern Ukraine said Ukrainian shelling killed three people in the small town of Kreminna in the Moscow-held Lugansk region.

“As a result of the Ukrainian army’s shelling of Kreminna, three civilians died,” the Moscow-installed government of Lugansk said on social media.

The front in Ukraine has barely moved in months but battles and air attacks have grinded on.

Russia buying Starlink terminals in ‘Arab countries’

Russian forces are buying Starlink satellite internet terminals in “Arab countries” for use on the battlefield, according to Ukraine’s military spy agency.

The Elon Musk-owned service has been vital to Kyiv’s battlefield communications, but Ukrainian officials have said Russian forces are also increasingly relying on it during their nearly two-year-old invasion.

The defence ministry’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) released what it said was an audio intercept of two Russian soldiers discussing buying units from Arab providers for around 200,000 roubles (over €2,000) each.

“The aggressor state Russia is purchasing communications equipment, including Starlink satellite Internet terminals, for use in the war in Arab countries,” the ministry said on Telegram.

Yesterday, GUR spokesman Andriy Yusov told Reuters that Russian forces were purchasing the terminals through unspecified third countries.

Starlink has said it does not do business with Russia or operate on Russian territory.

The Kremlin said the terminals were neither certified for use in, nor officially supplied to, Russia, and therefore could not be used.

Meanwhile, Russia has warned that Moscow would be very tough if the United States and European Union seized hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Russian assets.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in 2022, the US and its allies prohibited transactions with Russia’s central bank and finance ministry, blocking around $300 billion of sovereign Russian assets in the West.

Yesterday, the EU adopted a law to set aside windfall profits made on frozen Russian central bank assets, it said in a first concrete step towards the bloc’s aim of using the money to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine.

“This is theft: It’s the appropriation of something that doesn’t belong to you,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Sputnik radio, TASS reported.

Ms Zakharova said the response from Moscow would be “extremely tough” as Russia felt it was essentially dealing with thieves.

“Considering that our country has qualified this as theft, the attitude will be towards thieves,” she said. “Not as political manipulators, not as overplayed technologists, but as thieves.”

Russia has said that if its property is seized then it will seize US, European and other assets in responses.

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