Russia has assigned 2 million dollars for the restoration of the Kosovo Orthodox shrines that were damaged by Albanian extremists 8 years ago, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, adding that the restoration of the Serbian spiritual heritage would be carried out under UNESCO auspices.

The sum Russia has allocated for this purpose is acquiring great significance today in view of the fact that on March 24th the world will mark the tragic date – 13 years since the NATO bombing of former Yugoslavia. More than 2, 500 Serbs were killed and the number of those who were wounded during the 1999 bombings topped 13,000. Many of the Serbian shrines, including both cathedrals and monasteries, were destroyed as a result. However, later the destruction of Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo and Metohija continued because of the attacks by the Albanian separatists, Chairwoman of the UNESCO Executive Council Eleonora Mitrofanova said in an interview with the Voice of Russia.

“On that list are four shrines that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage.  Although they were not completely destroyed, they need a serious restoration. Today UNESCO is completing the selection of companies which will be involved in the restoration of the above-mentioned sites. All these are the Orthodox churches. The Serbs are also Orthodox Christians, and the Kosovo monuments of culture and spirituality are actually that something that gave rise to the emergence of the Serb nation. Therefore, the transfer of the previously mentioned sum for the reconstruction of the Orthodox shrines is of great significance for the development of relations between Russia and Serbia, as well as for the spiritual revival of the modern Serb nation. Serbs have always regarded Russia as a friend and defender of its interests.”

Russia’s initiative to allocate a considerable sum for the restoration of the Kosovo spiritual and cultural heritage was praised highly by the Russian Orthodox Church. The Moscow Patriarchate will also offer help to its Kosovo brothers, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk from the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations said in an interview with the Voice of Russia.

“We met with the representatives of the Serbian Church who told us that they would like our monks and nuns to visit Serbia – at least for a year or two to support the local monasteries. For example, the Patriarchate of Pec, where the enthronization of the Serbian Patriarch took place is a nunnery today. Its Mother Superior is 90 years old, and there are a few nuns there. Of course, Russian churches could offer help to Serbian shrines.”

Besides financial aid, Russia will send its architects, engineers, technologists, and art critics to Serbia, who will not only make estimates of the damage done but will also begin restoration work there.

Milena Faustova

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