Ukraine jumps into fray over Crimea artifacts in Amsterdam

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The Ukraine is turning to the Dutch court to claim the treasures of four museums in the Crimea, the Volkskrant reports. These treasures were exhibited in the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam last summer. The state itself announced today as an interested party in the legal proceedings that the four Crimean museums filed against the Allard Pierson.

The institutions in Crimea filed a lawsuit against the museum in Amsterdam at the end of November, after the Allard Pierson decided not to return the hundreds of borrowed objects. These objects were borrowed for the exhibit Crimea, Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea. During the exhibit, Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula. Before the exhibition was finished, both the Ukraine and the museums asked for the treasures to be returned. The Allard Pierson fears damage claims from either party if the artifacts are transferred, the Volkskrant reports. Direct consultations between the parties did not succeed. The Allard Pierson now hopes for a decision by the court. The response to the summons will appear in the court in Amsterdam by no later than Wednesday. More hearings may follow. According to Martin Sanders, the lawyer for Ukraine, the treasures are still owned by the state. By interfering in the procedure the country hopes to avoid the dispute remaining in the sidelines. It is exceptional for a State to ask for a ruling, and thus handing over sovereignty, from a court in another country. "At the moment there is no other possibility. The objects are now once in the Dutch jurisdiction." Sanders said. The National Park of Tuarisch Chersonesos, the Kerch Historical and Archaeological Museum, the Central Museum of Tavrida and the Bachtsjisaraj History and Culture State Park want the Allard Pierson to hold to the closed loan contracts. These contracts state that objects must be returned to the Crimea after the exhibition. Although they show understanding for the position of the museum, they call the position not legally tenable. According to the Volkskrant, they also claim to be the rightful owners of the treasure. According to the four museums, the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture is trying to "undress" the institutions. They emphasize that the objects are inseparable from the history of the Crimea. "The collections have been in good hands for decades and will not be endangered after their return." says the museums' lawyer Michiel van Leeuwen. Lawyer Sanders says that the museums can no longer rely on the loan contracts. "In the new situation, they no longer have the power to keep the collections among themselves." The University of Amsterdam, under which the Allard Pierson Museum falls, keeps to the view that it is not free to choose between the parties contesting the collection. The museum has announced that it will comply with a court ruling. The treasures left behind in Amsterdam include Chinese jewelry boxes, an altar, a picture of a Scythian goddess, silver and bronze jewelry and pottery. Other objects in the exhibition have already been returned to the purveyor of the exhibition - the Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine in Kiev.