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Ukraine displays recovered artifacts it says were stolen by Russians

KYIV, Ukraine, October 24 ------ Ukraine has recovered 14 archaeological items allegedly stolen by a Russian man who was stopped at a U.S. airport on suspicion of illegally importing artifacts, Ukrainian officials said.

Ukraine’s acting Minister of Culture Rostyslav Karandieiev said the man stole the artifacts from Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory and then tried to transport them into the U.S. At a news conference in Kyiv Friday, Karandieiev showed some of the artifacts to journalists, along with the documentation that Ukraine received. The recovered items include various types of weaponry, such as axes of different sizes, and date back to periods ranging from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages. One of the oldest is a polished Neolithic axe, dating from approximately 5,000-3,000 years BCE, said Karandieiev. “It’s safe to say that Ukraine has received a new shipment of weaponry. The only catch is that this weaponry is incredibly ancient,” Karandieiev said with a smile during the public handover of artifacts at the historic Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, a sacred Orthodox monastic complex.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, now in its second year, is being accompanied by the destruction and pillaging of historical sites and treasures on an industrial scale, causing losses estimated in the hundreds of millions of euros (dollars), Ukrainian authorities say. Most of the artifacts returned were handed over to Ukraine during the visit of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the United States in September. The accompanying document disclosed the identity of the individual responsible for the unlawful importation of artifacts, revealing that he hails from Krasnodar, Russia. The acting director general of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, Maksym Ostapenko, estimated the value of the repatriated items to be around $20,000. But he emphasized that each artifact, given its age, is a significant cultural treasure.

Karandieiev pointed out that the artifacts must first be restored before they can be exhibited. Representatives of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra complex unpacked each item in front of journalists in Kyiv on Friday. Once the tight packaging had been removed, the artifacts, the majority coated with a thick, dark layer of rust, were put on display. The number of buildings of cultural value damaged or destroyed has reached at least 623, the Ministry of Culture reports. Karandieiev also highlighted a case where 16,000 items were found to be missing from the art museum in Kherson after Ukrainian forces liberated the city following a nine-month Russian occupation. “How long it will take to return our treasures, our artifacts, is hard to say,” he concluded.



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