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26 Oct, 2021 19:48

‘We’ll take back the gold, then Crimea,’ Ukrainian president threatens, after Dutch court hands haul of ancient artifacts to Kiev

‘We’ll take back the gold, then Crimea,’ Ukrainian president threatens, after Dutch court hands haul of ancient artifacts to Kiev

A court in the Netherlands has sparked a fierce war of words between politicians in Crimea and Kiev, ruling that, after a lengthy legal battle, a trove of golden relics from the peninsula should now be handed over to Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal’s presiding judge ruled that the hoard of Scythian gold currently on display at the Allard Pierson Museum at the University of Amsterdam, should be given to Kiev. The collection had been on loan from Crimea since 2014, when the peninsula was reabsorbed into Russia, and its fate had been at the heart of a years-long dispute.

“The court has ruled that the ‘Crimean Treasures’ should be handed to the Ukrainian State,” Judge Pauline Hofmeijer-Rutten said, adding that they were “part of the cultural heritage of the Ukrainian state” and “belong[ed] to the public part of the State Museum Fund of Ukraine.” The court ruled that there was no longer any obligation to return them to Crimea and the region’s new authorities.

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The collection, which is made up of more than 2,000 pieces assembled by a nomadic Iranian people who dominated the Pontic steppe from the 7th century BC to the 3rd century BC, has been exhibited at the university for the past seven years. Both Kiev and Moscow have claimed ownership, leading the institution to suspend their handover until the dispute was settled.

In 2017, museums on the Crimean Peninsula appealed a previous court decision to return the gold to Ukraine. Then, in 2019, the Court of Appeal overruled the decision to hand the collection to Kiev, but postponed any verdict until both sides had provided necessary documents.

After Tuesday’s court ruling, the head of the Republic of Crimea, Sergey Aksenov, expressed his anger at the final outcome of the court process, writing in his Telegram channel that it was “an outrageous, unfair, and illegal decision, although expected, given the bias of European courts and their hostile attitude towards Russia and Crimea. In fact, this is a fig leaf covering an insolent raider seizure.”

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“They must be returned to Crimean museums. This is required by both law and justice,” the politician added. Moscow has also expressed its dissatisfaction with the ruling, saying it was based on “politics, not truth.”

“Crimeans continue to be punished for their historic choice to reunite with Russia, and now their national cultural heritage has simply been stolen,” Leonid Slutsky, the chair of the International Committee of the State Duma, said.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the results as “victorious.” “Scythian gold will return to Ukraine,” he said, adding, “We always take back what’s ours. First, we’ll take back the Scythian gold, and then Crimea.”

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