UNSC Arria-formula meeting “The Destruction of cultural heritage as a consequence of the Russian aggression against Ukraine”

Statement by ESTONIA – Chargée d’Affaires Kristel Lõuk

Mr Chair,

We thank Albania, Poland and Ukraine for convening today’s meeting and the briefers for their presentations.

The illegal Russian aggression against Ukraine, another UN member state, in breach of the UN Charter is continuing, with cruel and targeted attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure day after day. This long trail of blood continued yesterday with the attack on Vinnytsia, which killed at least 23 people, including three children.

As much as its people, Russia has targeted the heritage and culture of Ukraine to erase it. This serves Russia’s colonial and empire-like objective to deny the people and state of Ukraine their history and their independent and sovereign right to exist. Just like its attacks have denied the humanity of the people of Ukraine, amplified by extensive disinformation and propaganda.

The aggression violates international law, including the UN Charter and UNESCO Constitution, as well as Russia’s obligations as a party to the Geneva Conventions, the 1970 Convention and 1954 Convention, including its 1st Protocol.

We emphasise the clear stance of the UN Security Council, expressed in resolution 2347, condemning the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage as well as the looting and smuggling of cultural property.

We condemn the deliberate targeting of Ukraine’s cultural and historical artefacts, including statues, monuments, museums, archives, theatres, libraries, and schools that represent Ukraine’s distinct identity, as well as the illicit trafficking of Ukraine’s cultural property. We also condemn the damage and looting by the Russian Federation in Crimea and Sevastopol, Ukraine  after 2014, including the sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The disruption of the communities, with millions of people forced to leave their homes, and the repressions against those exercising their freedom of expression and association in the non-governmentally controlled areas damage Ukraine’s intangible cultural heritage, carried by those who practice and transmit it.

Russia must end its aggression, including its actions against the cultural heritage of Ukraine. It will be held accountable for its violations of international law.

We call on UNESCO to fully implement the decisions related to Ukraine of the UNESCO Executive Board in full compliance with Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally agreed borders. We underline the need for monitoring, expertise and assistance by UNESCO in coordination with ICCORM, ICOMOS and other bodies and note the efforts made in this regard. UNESCO needs to speak up clearly and unequivocally against the destruction and looting of Ukraine’s cultural heritage.

We also welcome Ukraine’s considerable efforts to protect and preserve cultural heritage in the course of Russia’s invasion. Its history and culture will remain part of the world’s history and culture. We will do our part in this regard.

Thank you.