UNESCO on Monday added Russia's Lena Pillars, a natural rock formation in the remote northern Sakha Republic, to its World Heritage List as it ended discussions on new sites for the list.
The unique rock towers were formed over thousands of years by freezing winters and baking summers and attract a stream of adventurous travellers to the sparsely-populated region known for its diamond mines.
Russia nominated the rock formation in 2007. The addition of the Lena Pillars Nature Park brings Russia's total of cultural and natural sights recognised on the World Heritage List to twenty-five.
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace criticised UNESCO for deciding not to approve proposals for five Russian sites that are on the World Heritage List to be officially recognised as in danger.
It listed fresh-water Lake Baikal, the world's deepest, polluted by a cellulose plant; Virgin Komi Forests being prospected for gold; and the Western Caucasus nature reserve close to a ski resort being developed.
Nevertheless UNESCO warned that Lake Baikal and Western Caucasus would be listed as under threat in 2013 if Russia failed to take steps to remove the threats, Greenpeace said in a statement.
Holding its annual meeting in Saint Petersburg, the United Nations' cultural body has added 26 natural and cultural sites to its list of the world's most precious natural and manmade sites.
Most controversially, it backed a proposal by Palestine to include the Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route of Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, to its World Heritage List.
UNESCO also added the site on the Israeli occupied West Bank to its list of World Heritage in Danger due to water damage.
The move went ahead despite being hotly opposed by Israel. The United States cut funding to UNESCO when it recognised Palestine as a full member state last year.
New additions to the list of sites in danger also included Britain's port city of Liverpool due to proposed massive redevelopment of its historic docklands area.