2016-12-14 18:42:00

Dutch Court: 'Crimea artefacts must be returned to Ukraine'

(Vatican Radio) A Dutch court has ruled that a trove of historical artefacts being held by an Amsterdam museum must be returned to Ukraine and not to four museums in Crimea, which loaned them out for an exhibition in 2014. The decision is aimed at ending a cultural tug-of-war triggered by Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

Wednesday's ruling by the District Court of Amsterdam came after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 left treasures in a legal limbo. Both the Crimean museums and Ukraine demanded the return by Amsterdam's Allard Pierson Museum of some 300 stunning historical artefacts. 

The museum had borrowed them for a 2014 exhibition that opened a month before the annexation. However judge Mieke Dudok van Heel ruled that the artefacts should be returned to Ukraine, in part because Crimea is not recognized as a separate country.  

She explained "that the Crimean museums take the position that the Crimean treasures belong to the cultural heritage of Crimea, or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea." 

However, she said, "neither Crimea, nor the Autonomous Republic of Crimea are sovereign states. It is certain that the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was anyway, at the moment of the export of the Crimean treasures, part of the sovereign state of Ukraine."

The Amsterdam court's decision was a clear victory for Ukraine, the court said that the treasures should remain in storage in Amsterdam pending the outcome of a possible appeal. While Kiev was celebrating, authorities in Crimea quickly announced they would appeal, calling the ruling "another politicized, wrong decision which contradicts the laws."

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