Ukraine says Russian forces stole Scythian treasures from Melitopol Museum

Science News

Invading Russian troops have stolen items of A̳n̳c̳i̳e̳n̳t̳ Scythian gold and other historical and cultural valuables that were stored in the Melitopol Museum of Local History, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office has said.

On the fact of violation of the law and the customs of war, the Zaporizhzhia regional prosecutor’s office began criminal proceedings. It is reported by the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine.

According to the investigation, in April, the military of the Russian Federation and representatives of the occupation administration stole the national values ​​of Ukraine from the Melitopol Museum of Local Lore.

“According to preliminary data, among the stolen property was a collection of Scythian gold, which archaeologists discovered in the 50s of the last century,” the statement said.

Under the procedural leadership of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Prosecutor’s Office, criminal proceedings have been initiated on the fact of violation of the laws and customs of war (Part 1, Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

The pre-trial investigation is carried out by the investigators of the Zaporizhzhia department of the SBU.

Melitopol’s mayor Ivan Fyodorov said, “A little more than a week ago (on Saturday), some expert from the Crimea was supposed to come, who was supposed to assess this Scythian gold to understand its value and authenticity. What is the fate of this Scythian gold now, we have no information! After the arrival of this expert, none of the museum staff has ever seen this Scythian gold,”

According to him, the Scythian gold kept in the local history museum of Melitopol is original and “almost priceless”.

This was hardly the first attack on Ukrainian culture since the war began.

In Mariupol, the town that has been hammered for weeks by Russian forces, officials said that Russian agents broke into an art museum and stole masterpiece paintings, a famous sculpture, and several highly valued Christian icons.

Scythian artifacts.

On Saturday, Ukrainian officials said that more than 250 cultural institutions had been damaged or destroyed.

Melitopol Museum of Local History is an elegant, three-story, stone building in the old part of town, home to 50,000 exhibits, from Soviet-era medals to old battle axes. But its prized collection was a set of rare gold ornaments from the Scythians, a nomadic people that founded a rich, powerful empire, centered in the Crimean Peninsula, that endured from around the eighth century B.C. to the second century A.D.

Earlier, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal had ruled by recognizing Ukraine’s right to the ownership of the Scythian gold collection.

“Scythian golds” will be returned to Ukraine

The fate of the Scythian Golds, which were sent to be exhibited in the Allard Pierson Museum before the Russian annexation of Crimea and still remain in the Netherlands, has been determined.

Scythian gold will return to Ukraine. The Amsterdam Court of Appeal judged on October 26 that the collection of Scythian gold shall be returned to Ukraine.

In the summer of 2014, the Allard Pearson Archaeological Museum in Amsterdam hosted the exhibition “Crimea: The Black Sea Gold and Its S̳e̳c̳r̳e̳t̳s” which comprised over 500 objects from numerous Crimean institutions. The exposition was not restored to Crimea after Russia’s annexation of the peninsula.

The exhibition consisted of the collections of 5 museums, 4 of which were in Crimea and one in Kyiv. After the exhibition was closed on August 31, 2014, due to the fact that the Netherlands did not recognize the occupation of Crimea by Russia, the problem arose with whom to send the items. The case regarding Scythian gold between the  Ukrainian administration and the Russian administration, which occupied Crimea, began to be examined in court in January 2015.

At its hearing on 14 December 2016, the Amsterdam District Court accepted the decision to hand over the works in the exhibition “Crimea: The Black Sea Gold and Its S̳e̳c̳r̳e̳t̳s” to Ukraine. In April 2017, it was learned that the representatives of museums in the Russian-annexation Crimea appealed the court decision.

Scythian gold

On October 28, 2020, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal granted Ukraine’s motion to disqualify a judge in the Scythian gold case due to confirmation of the presiding judge’s link with the lawyers of Crimean museums which could indicate his bias.

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