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Italy to allocate €45 million for emergency restoration work on UNESCO sites in Odesa

The funding aims to aid urgent repairs following Russian attacks, preserving the city’s cultural heritage.
damaged church in odesa
Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa damaged by Russian troops on 23 July 2023. Source: Italian PM’s press service
Italy to allocate €45 million for emergency restoration work on UNESCO sites in Odesa

During a visit to Odesa, Acting Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, Rostyslav Karandieiev, announced that the governments of Italy and Ukraine would sign a memorandum of cooperation. This agreement will allocate €45 million to Ukraine for urgent emergency and conservation work on cultural heritage sites within the UNESCO protective zone in Odesa, UkrInform reported.

Odesa has been suffering from Russian missile and drone attacks since 2022. Last year, Russians launched a massive air assault on the city with 19 missiles of five different types, destroying port infrastructure, residential buildings, and the Transfiguration Orthodox Cathedral.

“The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine and the relevant Italian authority will sign a memorandum in two weeks, under which Ukraine will receive €45 million for urgent emergency and conservation work on the affected cultural heritage sites within the UNESCO protective zone in Odesa,” Karandieiev said.

According to Karandieiev, the memorandum will be highly detailed to understand the expenses for each affected object, including work on the Transfiguration Cathedral.

“It is crucial for these funds to arrive promptly, as some sites have suffered extensive damage. We will conduct comprehensive restoration efforts after achieving victory. These unique cultural heritage sites are important not only for Ukraine but the entire world. We cannot afford to lose them,” he emphasized.

In 2023, the office of Italian Prime Minister Giorgi Meloni announced Italy’s plans to contribute to the restoration efforts of the Transfiguration Orthodox Cathedral, which the Russian army had bombed.

Later, Ukraine and Italy signed an agreement to renovate the church. According to Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Antonio Tajani, top Italian architects will oversee the church’s restoration.

In November, heavy rains flooded the cathedral, prompting urgent conservation work by the Odesa Eparchy of the UOC, the building’s owner. By March 2024, construction units covered the central part of the cathedral’s roof.

As of 25 February 2024, Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information Policy reported that Russia’s war damaged 1,946 cultural infrastructure sites in Ukraine and destroyed 16% of them. Clubs, libraries, museums, theaters, philharmonics, and arts education institutions (art schools and colleges) are among them across 277 territorial communities.

Since 2022, Russia has also destroyed or damaged 1,046 cultural heritage sites in Ukraine, with the highest number of incidents recorded in Kharkiv Oblast. The ministry continues to document the damage to cultural infrastructure in Ukraine due to the full-scale Russian aggression.

Earlier, the Associated Press reported that the United Nations’ cultural agency said Ukraine would require nearly $9 billion over the next decade to rebuild its cultural sites and tourism industry following Russia’s invasion and war.

UNESCO estimated that Ukraine’s interlinked culture and tourism sector lost over $19 billion in revenue during Russia’s aggression. The agency said the fighting has damaged 341 cultural sites across Ukraine, including in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and the cities of Lviv in the west and Odesa in the south.

The agency estimated that the total cost of destruction to those cultural sites and thousands of other “cultural assets” comes to nearly $3.5 billion.

Related: 

  • Russian missiles destroyed 60,000 tons of food that waited for shipping to China from Odesa
  • Russia launches largest-yet attack on Odesa; port, grain infrastructure hit
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