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Supreme Court of the Netherlands Decides to Return Scythian Gold to Ukraine

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Photo: Supreme Court of the Netherlands Decides to Return Scythian Gold to Ukraine.   Collage: The Gaze
Photo: Supreme Court of the Netherlands Decides to Return Scythian Gold to Ukraine. Collage: The Gaze

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands today upheld the decisions of lower courts obliging the Allard Pierson Museum to return ancient Crimean gold artefacts, known as 'Scythian Gold,' to the state of Ukraine. This development is mentioned on the court's website.

This court decision marks an end to the lengthy legal battle. The gold artefacts were displayed in the Allard Pierson Museum in the Netherlands when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Both Ukraine and the museums in Crimea demanded their return.

"This decision ends this dispute. The Allard Pierson Museum must return these artistic treasures to the state of Ukraine, not to museums in Crimea," the court ruling stated.

The dispute concerned the return of artworks loaned by Crimean museums (so-called Crimean treasures or Scythian Gold). The Allard Pierson Museum (APM) in Amsterdam received these archaeological items, museum exhibits, on lease from Crimean museums for an exhibition from February to August 2014. Ukrainian law was recognised as applicable to the loan agreements. The art objects were transferred with the permission of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine.

"In March 2014, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea left Ukraine and joined the Russian Federation. The UN, EU and the Netherlands did not recognise this separation and affiliation to Russia. At the time of separation and joining Russia, the objects related to the exhibition were still located at the APM in Amsterdam," the court statement explains.

Following the annexation of Crimea, the Crimean museums demanded the return of the art objects. The state of Ukraine did the same in May 2014. It was unclear to the APM to whom it should return the objects, hence it retained the documents until the court made its final decision in the case.

The judges stated that Ukraine has a "legitimate interest in protecting its cultural heritage".

While Kyiv welcomed previous court decisions in its favour as victories, Moscow reacted fiercely, calling it a politically motivated decision that "created a dangerous precedent".

Thus, now on legal grounds, the Ukrainian museum exhibits from the exhibition titled "Crimea - Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea" are to be transferred by the Allard Pierson Museum to the National Museum of the History of Ukraine, following nearly nine years of legal wrangling.

Teams from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, lawyers of the Dutch firm Bergh Stoop & Sanders, and the Ukrainian Law Association "Sergey Kozyakov and partners" have been working on the return of these exhibits to Ukraine since 2014.

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