AMSTERDAM (AP) – An Amsterdam appeals court ruled on Tuesday that a treasure trove of historical Crimean treasures that have been stored for years in a Dutch museum must be turned over to Ukraine, saying they do ” part of the cultural heritage of the Ukrainian state “.
The Ukrainian president hailed the decision as a victory for his country.
The judgment, which can be appealed to the Dutch Supreme Court, upheld the decision of a lower court and was the latest development in a prolonged legal standoff over the fate of the artefacts resulting from the annexation of Crimea by Russia.
Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine in 2014, a month after the Allard Pierson Museum opened the “Crimea – Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea” exhibition, sparking a dispute over the destination of the treasures. borrowed. The exhibits were stored in Amsterdam pending resolution of the dispute.
Russian officials and lawmakers have vowed to appeal.
Almost five years ago, an Amsterdam court ruled that the objects should be returned to Ukraine and not to four Crimean museums which loaned them for an exhibition in 2014. At the time, the court did not had not ruled on the beneficial ownership of the 300 or so artifacts, saying the issue should be resolved by a Ukrainian court.
Among the most astonishing objects in the exhibition is a solid gold Scythian helmet from the 4th century BC. AD and a gold neck ornament from the 2nd century AD.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy commented on Twitter, hailing “the long-awaited victory” and saying “grateful to the court for a fair decision”.
“We always get what is ours,” Zelenskyy tweeted. “After the Scythian gold, we will return to the Crimea.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the decision during a conference call with reporters.
Andrei Malgin, director of the Crimean museum, was indignant.
“I run out of words to express my outrage and anger,” Malgin said in remarks released by the Tass News Agency. He called the Dutch court’s verdict a “demonstration of double standards and contempt for the cultural heritage of the people of Crimea”.
Tuesday’s decision said that while the treasure comes from Crimea and therefore can be considered part of the cultural heritage of Crimea, it is part of the cultural heritage of the Ukrainian state, as it has existed since independence in 1991 .
The court said in a statement that “the cultural interest which lies in the preservation of the pieces of the museum is a public interest of the Ukrainian state which carries great weight.
The court took into account a law promulgated by Ukraine in 1995 which provides for a protection regime for artefacts.
“Even though museum pieces continue to exist and remain intact, the Museums Act aims to prevent museum pieces like these from leaving the sphere of influence of the Ukrainian state. There is a current danger of that happening, ”the court said.
Alexei Levykin, director of the Moscow State Historical Museum, said the decision “violates the basic principle of the international exchange of museum exhibits – the objects should return to the museum from which they were removed.”
“Bias verdicts like this will effectively paralyze exchanges between museums,” he said, according to the Interfax news agency.
Corder reported from The Hague. Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed.