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Ukraine needs nearly $9 billion to rebuild its cultural sites and tourism industry, UN agency says

Ihor Kuzmenko, left, and Yuriy Maliuh altitude workers install a restored cross on a dome of Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the gold-domed St. Sophia Cathedral, located in the heart of Kyiv, was built in the 11th century and designed to rival the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.Evgeniy Maloletka/Associated Press

PARIS — Ukraine will need nearly $9 billion over the next decade to rebuild its cultural sites and tourism industry following Russia’s invasion and war, the United Nations’ cultural agency said Tuesday.

UNESCO estimated that the country's interlinked culture and tourism sector have lost over $19 billion in revenue during the war that started two years ago this month. The agency said the fighting has damaged 341 cultural sites across Ukraine at a cost of $3.5 billion, including in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, and the cities of Lviv in the west and Odesa in the south.

“The cathedral of Odesa is one example of a site that was gravely damaged,” Chiara Dezzi Bardeschi, who heads the UNESCO office in Ukraine, said. ”It’s a symbol of all the community… with deep spiritual and historical meaning.”

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In July 2023, UNESCO strongly condemned a “brazen attack carried out by the Russian forces” against historic buildings in the center of Odesa, an area the agency designated last year as an endangered world heritage site. The attack claimed at least two lives and damaged several sites, including the 18th century Transfiguration Cathedral, the main Orthodox church in Odesa.

UNESCO said the intentional destruction of cultural heritage sites, including religious buildings and artifacts, may amount to a war crime. The International Criminal Court first brought war crimes charges involving purposeful attacks on historic religious monuments and buildings in a case involving Mali in 2015.