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Estonia hands over confiscated gold and silver treasures to Ukraine

Confiscated Ukrainian treasure found at the Estonian border was handed over to Ukraine on January 23, and is on display in Tallinn until January 28 in the
Confiscated Ukrainian treasure found at the Estonian border was handed over to Ukraine on January 23, and is on display in Tallinn until January 28 in the ""Looted Treasures. Gold from Ukraine" exhibition, Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Three hundred items of stolen treasure, including coins from antiquity and the Middle Ages, were handed over to Ukrainian Ambassador to Estonia Maksym Kononenko by Minister of Culture Heidy Purga (Reform) on Tuesday.

The items were confiscated at the Luhamaa border crossing in south Estonia in 2018 after being discovered by customs officials Kaia Nõlvik and Avo Kütt. They were inside a vehicle traveling from Russia to Europe.

An investigation determined the objects were illegally excavated from eastern and southern parts of Ukraine

Among the returned artifacts are gold items of the Scythians who lived in the areas of southern Ukraine in ancient times, medieval horse ornaments, and ancient and medieval coins.

On Tuesday, Purga and Kononenko signed a contract to hand the items over to the Ukraine.

The objects are on display in the "Looted Treasures. Gold from Ukraine" exhibition at the Great Guild Hall of the Estonian History Museum in Tallinn until Sunday, January 28.

Nele Kangert, adviser on archaeology at the National Heritage Board, said the objects are of a "very high cultural value" and should be on public display.

Minister of Culture Heidy Purga and Ambassador of Ukraine to Estonia Maksym Kononenko signed the agreement to send the objects to Ukraine. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"Many of the objects originate from so-called royal tombs in Ukraine. Considering the fact that the findings include items from different eras and sites, several important antiquities have been looted and the opportunity to scientifically study these objects and gather new information about history has been permanently taken away," she said. 

Estonia and Ukraine have both joined the UNESCO convention, which prohibits the illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property.

Based on the same convention, in 2016, Estonia returned a Viking-era sword that had been smuggled out of Ukraine and confiscated at the Estonian border.

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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

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