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UN tracking Ukraine’s cultural damage with satellite imagery

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Before and after satellite imagery is helping to keep track of the damage Russia’s war in Ukraine is inflicting on the country’s cultural sites.

The United Nations culture agency UNESCO, with the help of the UN Satellite Centre UNOSAT, has verified damage to 207 cultural sites in Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24. 

So far 88 religious sites, 15 museums, 76 buildings of historical and or artistic interest, 18 monuments and 10 libraries have been damaged.

These include a theatre in the southern city of Mariupol where thousands including children had taken refuge.

“Our conclusion is it’s bad, and it may continue to get even worse,” UNESCO’s cultural and emergencies director Krista Pikkat told reporters at a briefing in Geneva.

The team’s analysis is to be shared on an online tracking platform launching soon. 

“Our primary responsibility is to make sure we have information available about the sites’ situation to be ready for recovery, but we know that in previous circumstances this documentation has been used also by the country authorities if they want to look into allegations of war crimes,” Pikkat said.

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