15 January 2021, 17:46
Kiev expects icon gifted to Lavrov in Sarajevo to be returned to Ukraine
Kiev, January 15, Interfax - Ukraine does not accept the language of conditions and ultimatums from member of the Presidium of Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said.
"The icon's origin from the Ukrainian territory is an undisputable fact. The Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine has initiated criminal proceedings in the case of the unlawful removal. We expect the Bosnian and Herzegovinian side to provide assistance in the criminal investigation and examination, and in its [the icon's] prompt return to Ukraine, instead of using the icon in the internal political struggle," Nikolenko told Interfax on Friday.
Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina are parties to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, he said.
"In accordance with Article 7, the member states of this convention are obligated to prohibit the import of items of cultural value stolen from a museum or a religious organization and a secular historical landmark, as well as take relevant measures to identify and return any such items of cultural value," he said.
As reported, on December 15, 2020, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov paid a working visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Dodik gifted a gilded 18th-century icon to him.
It emerged on December 18 that the Ukrainian Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina sent a note to Sarajevo, demanding that the 300-year-old icon, allegedly originating from Lugansk, be returned. Kiev claims that it is part of "Ukraine's cultural heritage".
Subsequently, Russia handed over the icon to the embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Moscow in agreement with the donator, at the same time recommending that available legal mechanisms be applied to establish all circumstances of the matter, including the origin of the aforesaid artifact.
Dodik said that he has not received Ukraine's answer whether it was looking for the icon and that it has not provided any information about it, Radio Slobodna Evropa said.
Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church said it was premature to hand over the St. Nicholas icon gifted to Lavrov in Bosnia to Ukraine before any examination.