Russian investigators to probe Dutch court decision on Crimean gold

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Russian investigators said Wednesday they will probe a Dutch court decision to transfer a priceless collection of Crimean gold to Ukraine, a ruling hailed by Kiev as a victory over Moscow.

An Amsterdam court ruled this week that the pieces, dubbed “Scythian Gold” and loaned to the city’s Allard Pierson Museum just before Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014, should be handed over to Ukraine.

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“The Netherlands made a decision to please the political situation,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement, adding that the collection had been stored “for decades” in Crimean museums.

It said it had instructed investigators in the Russian-controlled peninsula to “organise a probe on the fact of a non-return of cultural items belonging to the Republic of Crimea.”

The head of the committee, Alexander Bastrykin, had also asked for investigators to work with Moscow’s foreign ministry to “thoroughly study” the case.

The fate of the gold has been subject to legal wrangling since four museums on the peninsula launched a joint challenge seven years ago to have them returned.

In 2016, a lower Dutch court ruled that the treasures were part of Ukraine’s cultural heritage and must be returned to Kiev -- not to the museums that launched the petition -- on the grounds that Crimea was not considered a sovereign state.

The Crimean museums appealed the judgement. But on Tuesday, the Dutch court of appeal ruled that the gold should be held by Ukraine “pending stabilization in the Crimea.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the “long-awaited victory” to return the treasure, was a “fair decision.”

“We always regain what’s ours. After the ‘Scythian gold’, we’ll return Crimea,” he said on Twitter after the ruling.

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