Estonia returns stolen gold and silver treasures to Ukraine

24.01.2024 06:20
Heidi Saar
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Estonia handed over 300 stolen treasures, including ancient and medieval coins, to Ukrainian Ambassador Maksym Kononenko. The artifacts, seized at the Luhamaa border crossing, were found in a vehicle traveling from Russia to Europe by customs officials Kaia Nõlvik and Avo Kütt.

An investigation revealed that the items were illegally excavated from eastern and southern parts of Ukraine. The returned artifacts include gold items from the Scythians, who lived in southern Ukraine in ancient times, medieval horse ornaments, and ancient and medieval coins.

On Tuesday, Minister of Culture Heidy Purga and Ambassador Kononenko signed a contract for the handover. The treasures are currently on display at the "Looted Treasures. Gold from Ukraine" exhibition at the Great Guild Hall of the Estonian History Museum in Tallinn until January 28.

Nele Kangert, adviser on archaeology at the National Heritage Board, emphasized the "very high cultural value" of the objects, many originating from royal tombs in Ukraine. Kangert expressed concern that the looting has deprived the opportunity for scientific study and gathering new historical information.

Both Estonia and Ukraine are parties to the UNESCO convention, prohibiting the illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property. In 2016, Estonia returned a Viking-era sword, smuggled from Ukraine and confiscated at the Estonian border, based on the same convention.

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