Dutch justice orders return of Crimean archaeological treasures to Ukraine

In the Netherlands, the court ordered on appeal, Tuesday, October 26, the return to Ukraine of a collection of archaeological treasures, loaned by Crimea to a museum in Amsterdam shortly before the annexation of this Ukrainian peninsula by Moscow in 2014. “The Amsterdam Court of Appeal ordered the Allard Pierson Museum to hand over to the Ukrainian State the Crimean treasures », decided the judges.

“Although the museum pieces originate from Crimea and, in this regard, can be considered as part of the heritage of Crimea, they are part of the cultural heritage of the Ukrainian state as it exists in as an independent state since 1991 ”, ruled the court.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky immediately welcomed a “Long-awaited victory”. Saying to himself on Twitter ” grateful “ for this “Just decision”, Mr. Zelensky added that Ukraine “Always get back what belongs to him”. “After the” Scythian gold, we will recover the Crimea ”, he promised.

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On the other hand, the museums of Crimea are “Very sad”, commented Rob Meijer, their lawyer. These treasures “Never belonged to the museums of Kiev” and “They must be returned” in Crimea, he told reporters. Russian Senators Vladimir Djabarov and Andrey Klishas also lamented the judgment, warning that Russia would not allow ” without answer “ this “Biased decision”. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, declined to comment officially on the judgment, although he pointed out in September that Russian authorities ” to like[aient] of course [la] collection be back in his house ”.

The museum caught “between a rock and a hard place”

In November 2014, four museums in Crimea launched a joint legal action to force the Allard Pierson Museum, archaeological museum of the University of Amsterdam, to return works loaned for the exhibition “The Crimea: gold and secrets of the black Sea “. In 2016, a Dutch court ruled that these archaeological treasures should be returned to Ukraine, explaining that Crimea was not considered an autonomous state.

The Crimean museums then appealed the judgment, arguing that the gold belonged to this region. In 2019, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal stressed that it needed more time to rule. As for the treasures, they were, in the meantime, kept in a “Safe place” by the Allard Pierson Museum. The rich collection of objects, dating from the second century AD until the early Middle Ages, was on loan to this museum less than a month before Russia’s annexation of Crimea, after a military intervention followed by a referendum of attachment deemed illegal by Kiev and the West.

Another piece from the “Treasures of Crimea”, photographed in April 2014.
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Torn between Ukraine and Crimea, both of which demanded the return of the objects, the Allard Pierson Museum was taken ” between the devil and the deep sea “, had estimated the Dutch court in 2016. Its judgment had caused the anger of Moscow and the joy of Petro Poroshenko, then president of Ukraine. According to him, the decision meant that “Not only is Scythian gold Ukrainian, but also Crimea is Ukrainian”.

“Russian falsifications and manipulations”, according to Ukraine

It was therefore for the Amsterdam Court of Appeal to decide. Since the case does not seem to be covered by Dutch or European laws, nor to be linked to world heritage as defined by Unesco, it was now, according to this jurisdiction, to “Decide who has the strongest rights”. Andreï Malguine, the director of the Tavrida Museum in Simferopol, one of the four establishments in Crimea to have initiated the legal action, had meanwhile accused the Dutch justice of “Hang out” the trial.

“We not only collect museum pieces”, but also “Relics testifying to our millennial history”, for his part commented on Tuesday, in a video, the head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmytro Kuleba. During the trial, “All Russian falsifications and manipulations” resulted in a « fiasco », he concluded.

The World with AFP

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Dutch justice orders return of Crimean archaeological treasures to Ukraine