Battle to protect Ukraine's most important World Heritage sites, including St Sophia's Cathedral in Kyiv – ABC News

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Amid the battle to defend Ukraine and its people from Russian invasion is a separate struggle to save some of the country's most significant cultural sites.
Ukraine is home to seven World Heritage sites, including the 1,000-year-old St Sophia's Cathedral that forms the spiritual heart of the capital Kyiv.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has repeatedly called for the protection of significant sites.
Ukraine has already reported inadvertent damage to an important Holocaust memorial during a bombing of a nearby television tower, and the Assumption Cathedral in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, was damaged in recent attacks.
As Russian forces advance towards Kyiv, experts say the potential for accidental damage of sites is particularly high.
"We're talking about a very old city," said Jacob Lassin, a postdoctoral research scholar at the Arizona State University's Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies.
"The centre part is densely packed. Even if you're trying to hit one thing, you could easily hit something else."
Here are some of the World Heritage sites in Ukraine.
At the spiritual heart of Kyiv are St Sophia's Cathedral and the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, known as the Monastery of the Caves, which are among the nation's most sacred Orthodox sites.
The cathedral and nearby monastic complex represent "a masterpiece of human creative genius in both its architectural conception and its remarkable decoration", says a summary by UNESCO, which lists them as World Heritage Sites.
St Sophia's, built under Prince Yaroslav the Wise in the 11th century, was modelled after the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), the spiritual and architectural heart of medieval Orthodoxy.
The Kyiv cathedral includes mosaics and frescoes as old as 1,000 years, and it was a model for later churches in the region, according to UNESCO.
The Monastery of the Caves, including underground monastic cells, tombs of saints and above-ground churches built across nearly nine centuries, was hugely influential in spreading Orthodox Christianity, according to UNESCO.
Mr Lassin says the symbolic value of the shrines is powerful even to people who don't share the religious faith they commemorate.
"The idea that the main symbol that stood in your city for 1,000 years could be at risk or could be destroyed is very frightening," he said.
Mr Lassin said damage to the complex would also damage Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim to be defending Orthodox Ukrainians who are loyal to the Russian branch of the faith.
"It would literally be destroying the main seat of Russian Orthodoxy according to his own rhetoric," Mr Lassin said.
Due to its role as one of Ukraine's main cultural centres, UNESCO has granted World Heritage status to Lviv's historic centre.
"The medieval urban topography has been preserved virtually intact (in particular, there is evidence of the different ethnic communities who lived there), along with many fine Baroque and later buildings," UNESCO says.
But the city's proximity to Poland makes it an important post for refugees leaving the country and for the in-flow of supplies, support and fighters.
Curators believe the collections they protect in the Lviv National Museum will become targets in the war, and so they have secured them.
The museum building dates back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and has seen the Nazis and the Soviets come and go.
"We have to preserve our culture, we have to preserve the pieces that were left for us by our fathers, grandfathers, by previous generations because we have to be, we have to exist and in this collection, we present our national memory – it is our national soul baked into every item," the museum's cultural secretary, Angelina Zabytivska, said.
"We have to preserve it.
"Ukraine has to exist and culture is the main basis or foundation on which any nation exists."
The collections will be divided and housed in secret locations and there are back-up plans to move them further afield if the museum feels like they are vulnerable.
Residence of Bukovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans, Chernivtsi
Designed by Czech architect Josef Hlavka, UNESCO says the property also contains a seminary and monastery and is "an outstanding example of 19th-century historicist architecture".
Wooden tserkvas of the Carpathian region in Poland and Ukraine
Situated across Ukraine and Poland, these 16 wooden churches were built by Orthodox and Greek Catholic communities.
Ancient city of Tauric Chersonese and its chora
Situated in the city of Sevastapol in Crimea, the site features remains of a city founded in the fifth century BC, and includes public buildings, residences and "well-preserved examples of vineyard planting and dividing walls", according to UNESCO.
Struve Geodetic Arc
Historic survey pointers that stretch more than 2,800 kilometres across 10 countries, including Ukraine. UNESCO says German astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve used the markers for the first accurate measuring of a meridian, which "helped to establish the exact size and shape of the planet and marked an important step in the development of earth sciences and topographic mapping".
Ancient and primeval beech forests of the Carpathian
Temperate forests that stretch across 18 countries, including Ukraine.
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