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Ancient Crimean gold treasures were returned to Kyiv on Monday, November 27, after a prolonged legal dispute. These artifacts, dating back around 2,000 years, had been on display in Amsterdam’s Allard Pierson museum when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. 

Ukraine celebrated the return of precious jewels amid the ongoing Russian invasion, launched in 2022, as a triumph for its “identity and freedom.” Originally loaned to the Dutch museum, the Scythian artifacts became the subject of a geopolitical dispute following the annexation. Subsequent legal battles ensued between Kyiv and Moscow-controlled Crimean museums, each claiming rightful ownership. The Dutch Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of Ukraine this summer.

The National Museum of the History of Ukraine (NMHU) announced on its website that the artifacts, originating from four Crimean museums, have finally returned to Ukraine after nearly a decade of litigation. The NMHU stated that the artifacts would be housed there until Crimea is de-occupied. The return, occurring 21 months into the Moscow offensive, symbolizes a significant victory for Ukraine, which has vowed to reclaim Crimea.

Ukraine’s customs service reported that the jewels arrived in Kyiv by truck, equipped with a temperature maintenance system and special trunks, weighing a total of 2,694 kilograms (5,900 pounds). A video was released showing the truck’s arrival at Kyiv’s medieval Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery, where customs officers would inspect the treasures. Rostyslav Karandeyev, Kyiv’s Minister of Culture, hailed the return as a “great historical victory,” emphasizing that the exhibition’s focus on Ukrainian Crimea necessitates Ukrainian ownership of these historic values. “Today, it is very important for us to preserve and protect history, traditions, and historical heritage. This is what we are fighting for on the battlefield. For our identity and freedom,” he stated.

Despite Moscow’s assertion that the artifacts, including a golden helmet, belong in Crimea, the treasures remained in the Allard Pierson museum throughout the legal proceedings. Els van der Plas, the museum’s director, acknowledged the uniqueness of the case, stating, “This was a special case in which cultural heritage became a victim of geopolitical developments.” She elaborated that the museum’s priority was the safekeeping of the artifacts until they could be returned to their rightful owner, expressing satisfaction that clarity had been achieved and the artifacts returned.

An undated handout picture released on December 14 2016 by the Allard Pierson Museum shows a 2nd-century AD golden earring with glass inlay and figurine found in a woman’s grave at the necropolis of Ust’Alma which is part of the “Crimea: Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea” exhibition at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam.
Photo Credit : Handout / ALLARD PIERSON MUSEUM / AFP

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