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Dutch Supreme Court orders museum artifacts borrowed from Crimea returned to Ukraine

By: Johnn Jin

The Netherlands Supreme Court ordered that more than 300 artifacts, some of which are over 2,000 years old, be sent to Ukraine because they are part of Ukraine’s cultural heritage. The artifacts were in the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam. Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 led to questions about the objects’ repatriation.

Mediation in 2014 between all the museums involved and Ukrainian authorities failed, and the Allard Pierson Museum took the matter to court. The legal tug-of-war has now ended with the Hague-based Supreme Court ordering the collection to be returned to Ukraine. Judges cited the lack of national recognition for Russia's annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

Ukraine government and Crimean museums both have bronze swords, gold helmets, precious gems and more. The exhibition “Crimea — Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea” exhibition included a solid gold Scythian helmet from the 4th century B.C. and a golden neck ornament from the second century A.D. that weighs more than a kilogram.

In 2016, the district Dutch court ordered the artifacts to be returned to the state. Russia has threatened to stop lending things to the Dutch museums if they don’t return the items. Now the Allard Pierson Museum says it can now act on the decision and return the objects. Legal fees and storage have already cost the museum more than 500,000 euros, according to documents it submitted during the proceedings.

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