Culture and religion

Russian attack damaged 29 objects of cultural heritage in Odesa, including the Transfiguration Cathedral

Volunteers work to clear rubble from Odesa's Transfiguration Cathedral after it was hit by a Russian missile on July 23, 2023. Photo: Kasia Strek / The Guardian

On the night of July 23, Russia launched 19 missiles at the southern city of Odesa. The attack damaged 29 objects of the cultural heritage of national and local significance, particularly those located within the UNESCO-protected historical center of Odesa. One person was killed, and 22 were injured, including four children.

Due to the enemy attack, the buildings of the 19th and 20th centuries were damaged, including the Manuk-Bey Mansion, the Porro House, the Chyzhevych House, the Zhdanova House, the Kovalevskyi House, the Mashevskyi House, and others. In addition, the Transfiguration Cathedral, the House of Scientists, and the Zhvanetskyi Boulevard were destroyed.

Moreover, Russian shelling severely damaged the UNESCO-protected Transfiguration Cathedral, one of the biggest and oldest in Odesa. A Russian missile hit the central altar; the service premises of the lower part of the cathedral were destroyed entirely, and the interior decoration and the icons were impacted.

The Transfiguration Cathedral is an example of an architectural monument in the style of classicism. It was originally built 228 years ago in honor of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. The solemn consecration of the religious building took place on May 25, 1809. At the end of the 19th century, partial reconstructions were carried out, and in 1894 major repairs were made.

On March 2, 1932, the Soviet regime closed the cathedral. Several years later, in 1936, the bell tower and the looted cathedral were blown up. Ukraine restored the architectural gem in 1999-2005. Located in the historic city center, the Transfiguration Cathedral has been a sacred place, heritage site, and tourist attraction spot.

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) condemned the missile attack by Russian troops on the historical center of Odesa. “This outrageous destruction marks an escalation of violence against the cultural heritage of Ukraine and I strongly condemn this attack against culture,” said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s Director-General.

He also urged the Russian Federation to take meaningful action to comply with its obligations under international law, such as the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the 1972 World Heritage Convention.

The aftermath of the attack on Odesa’s historic city center.
Photo: Kostiantyn Liberov & Vlada Liberova

On July 23, Russian forces attacked the city in the south of Ukraine with 19 cruise missiles and two ballistic missiles; Ukrainian defenders shot down 9 of them. According to the National Police of Ukraine, one person was killed, and 22 were injured, including four children. Many residential buildings have damaged facades, roofs, and shattered windows.

Update: The number of killed victims has increased to two people. The body of a dead woman was found near one of the destroyed houses in Odesa, reported the City Council of Odesa.

After quitting the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia has been actively targeting Odesa and the Odesa region. Since July 18, missile and drone attacks have been carried out almost every night. In particular, on July 19, about 60,000 tons of Ukrainian grain were destroyed in the port of Chornomorsk.

Read more about the attacks on ports and Ukrainian grain: Russia’s famine games

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