Russia tries to destroy ‘cultural, historical and religious heritage’ in Odesa: Official

Russia tries to destroy ‘cultural, historical and religious heritage’ in Odesa: Official

Residents of Ukraine’s Odesa in shock, fear since Feb. 24, 2022, says deputy mayor

ODESA, Ukraine (AA) – Russia is trying to destroy ‘not only military elements but also cultural, historical and the religious heritage of Odesa,’ the province’s Deputy Mayor Oleg Bryndak said Saturday.

Odesa has been subjected to Russian attacks since the first days of the war that Russia launched on Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Bryndak told Anadolu in an exclusive interview. “During this process, the residents of the city were in shock and fear.”

“Many of the citizens did not believe that war was possible,” he said.

“Odesa has always been attacked. Russian ships were nearby and our city was being hit with ship artillery,” he said. “With the delivery of Harpoon systems by our partners, we managed to drive Russian ships away from our shores.”

Odesa had a population of more than 1 million before the war, according to the deputy mayor as he lamented that 250,000 people left the city during the war, but a large number from other dangerous regions of the country flocked to Odesa as about 75,000 people have settled in the city.

- ‘Attempts to destroy cultural, historical, religious heritage’

Noting that Russia carried out a missile attack on Odesa last weekend, Bryndak said: "Of course, these were the largest attacks since the beginning of the war, which led to tragic consequences and loss of human life.”

“In these attacks, houses inhabited by civilians and structures of historical importance were damaged,” he said, mentioning that about 100 buildings have been damaged, and 50 were carrying historical importance.

Pointing out that the wreckage has been cleared and psychological support has been provided to those affected by the attacks, the deputy mayor stressed that a budget of nearly 100 million hryvnia (more than $2.7 million) has been allocated for expenses.

He expressed that military elements and civilian substructure have also been targeted by Russian forces, underlining: “The attack on the historical center of Odesa, which is under the protection of UNESCO, is an aggression against cultural, religious and spiritual values.”

“These attacks are an attempt to destroy not only the military elements but also the cultural, historical and religious heritage,” he said.

Describing the attacks as “genocide” as they were mainly in the city center, he said: “This was an attempt to break our spirit and bring us to our knees.”

“In fact, the opposite has happened. This situation has mobilized the residents of the city around their homeland,” he said.

Noting that they will repair all the damaged structures, he said: “We will be stronger from now on.”

- Need for air defense systems

Other cities, including Odesa, need more air defense systems, and foreign partners also understand it, said Bryndak, and he predicted that Russia will try to disrupt the city's power lines, exploiting the winter.

"Everyone needs to understand that the winter period will be critically difficult. We will have to resist attacks on critical infrastructure, power centers, thermal power plants," he said.

Touching on the situation of the city in the economy and trade sector, he pointed out that the war negatively affected the area: "The leading logistics, tourism, trade, production sectors of Odesa were developing before the war, but the war prevented the development of these areas.”

“The tourism sector has completely stopped because the ports were blocked,” he said. “More than 50,000 sailors are unemployed for a long time in Odesa,” he said, calling the period an “economic recession.”

Bryndak noted that the service sector is gradually starting to work, and the agricultural sector is also active.

- Russian attacks

Ukraine reported one person was killed and 22 injured in Russia's attack on Odesa last weekend.

In addition, the buildings in the historical center of the city and the Spaso-Preobrajenskiy Cathedral, which were included in the UNESCO World Heritage Danger List, were damaged.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced that facilities for the production of uncrewed naval vehicles near the city and preparation for terror acts with vehicles were hit by high-precision missiles, denying claims that the cathedral was damaged.

*Writing by Merve Berker​​​​​​​

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