Dutch Supreme Court says Crimean gold must go back to Ukraine

Some of the treasures

The Dutch Supreme Court has ordered a valuable collection of gold and other treasures from Crimea, currently in storage at a museum in Amsterdam, to be sent back to Ukraine.

The Hoge Raad upheld a 2021 appeals court ruling, which found the artifacts were part of the Ukrainian cultural heritage, and cleared the way for the Allard Pierson Museum to return the pieces to Ukraine, rather than Crimea which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

“The Allard Pierson can now act in accordance with the ruling of the Supreme Court,” the museum said in a statement.

Some 300 works of art and historical pieces were on loan from four museums in Crimea as part of an exhibition entitled The Crimea: Gold and Secrets from the Black Sea when Russia took over parts of the peninsula.

In promotional materials for the exhibition, the Allard Pierson Museum described the pieces as “spectacular archaeological finds.” They include gold items, a scabbard and a ceremonial helmet, and countless precious gems.

The museums demanded the objects be returned and Moscow even threatened to cut Dutch museums off from future loans if they weren’t.

A court in Amsterdam ruled in 2016 the objects should go back to Ukraine, where a Ukranian court could sort out ownership. The museums appealed but in 2021 a higher court reached the same conclusion.

It’s unclear when the objects might be returned, given the current situation in Ukraine. According to court documents, the legal dispute has cost the museum upwards of €500,000 in legal and storage fees.

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