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Illegal Construction in the Buffer Zone of a UNESCO Site Demolished by Court Order in the Capital of Ukraine

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Photo: Illegal Construction in the Buffer Zone of a UNESCO Site Demolished by Court Order in the Capital of Ukraine. Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko
Photo: Illegal Construction in the Buffer Zone of a UNESCO Site Demolished by Court Order in the Capital of Ukraine. Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko

On 17 May, in Ukraine's capital, a building illegally erected and used as a church by the religious community of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine (formerly known as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate) was demolished within the buffer zone of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Kyiv: Saint Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.” This was reported by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine.

The structure was built in 2012 on the grounds of the National Museum of History of Ukraine, adjacent to the foundation of the ancient Church of the Tithes—the first stone church in Kievan Rus'. The construction violated legal regulations, lacking archaeological surveys and permissions from the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine. Furthermore, the building was never officially commissioned in accordance with established standards.

“The museum plans to use the area, particularly the vacated site, for educational activities and children's programmes dedicated to both ancient and modern Ukrainian history. Additionally, future archaeological research is planned for sections that have not yet been studied or turned into exhibits,” stated Fedir Androschuk, Director of the National Museum of History of Ukraine.

It is noteworthy that the court had ordered the building's owners—the religious community of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine—to demolish the structure. However, the religious organization delayed the execution of this court order, citing a lack of funds.

On 8 April 2024, the National Museum of History of Ukraine initiated a fundraising campaign among Ukrainian citizens to finance the court-ordered demolition of the illegal structure. Following the collection of funds and the hiring of a contractor, the court decision was executed in accordance with the law.

“Thanks to the proactive stance of civil society, the professional work of lawyers, museum staff, and law enforcement, we have achieved the desired result—the structure has been demolished in a fully legal and civilized manner, without protests or clashes. I thank everyone involved for their coordinated efforts,” said Rostyslav Karandeyev, Acting Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine.

It should be noted that a temporary tent appeared at the site of the demolished illegal building back in 2007. This was later transformed into a wooden chapel and eventually into a full-fledged church. However, in official documents, the building was classified as three “small architectural forms.”

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