Ukraine said on Friday it had seized a huge multi-million-dollar collection of antiquities, allegedly stolen from museums in Russian-annexed Crimea, after a series of police raids in Kyiv.
Several thousand Bronze Age and Medieval artifacts were found in a Kyiv office, officials told a press conference in the Museum of the History of Ukraine.
Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said the authorities had recovered “more than 6,000 antiquities, including swords, sabres, helmets, amphoras and coins.”
The raids were part of an investigation into the “illegal activity” of a former Ukrainian lawmaker, who also served as a high-ranking official in Crimea before it was annexed by Moscow.
Some of the collection may have been stolen from Crimean museums and was estimated to be worth “several million dollars,” Venediktova said.
Interior minister Denys Monastyrsky said the collection was found after “13 searches over five days.”
He said the items were rare not just for Ukraine but for the whole of Eastern Europe.
“This is the largest illegal collection in the history of Ukraine,” Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko told the press conference.
“It is now being returned to the state.”
He said the return of the collection to Ukrainian hands was especially symbolic, coming almost four months after Russia’s invasion.
“We have recovered, during wartime, what (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is fighting against – our identity and our culture,” Tkachenko said.
Venediktova said Kyiv is now investigating the theft of a collection of Scythian gold from a museum in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine.
“Russia is not only trying to kill our state and our nation. It is also trying to steal our history,” the prosecutor general said.
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