Hundreds of works of art from Crimea currently in the hands of the Allard Pierson museum in Amsterdam must be sent back to Ukraine, a court ruled on Wednesday.
The collection of gold and other treasures has been in the Netherlands since early 2014 when they were the centre of a major exhibition at the archaeological museum.
While the exhibition was running, Russia annexed parts of the Crimea from Ukraine and the museum decided to hang on to the treasures while the row about where they should be sent back to was sorted out.
The items came from five museums in Ukraine, four of which are now under the control of Russia and which want the treasures back. They took legal action to force the museum to hand back the treasures. Ukraine also demanded the return of the works and says they belong in Kiev.
The Allard Pierson museum decided to hold onto the treasures pending the outcome of the court case into the claims. The Netherlands does not recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The court ruled that the treasures should be sent back to the sovereign state which loaned them to the museum, on the basis of a Unesco treaty. It also ordered Ukraine to pay the museum €100,000 towards the cost of looking after them.
The exhibition, entitled The Crimea: Gold and Secrets from the Black Sea, included what the museum said are ‘spectacular archaeological finds’, including gold items, a scabbard and a ceremonial helmet, and countless precious gems.
The objects will kept in Amsterdam for a further three months pending an appeal.