Ukrainian law enforcers have opened a criminal case over the illegal removal of an icon given to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by a Serbian member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Milorad Dodik, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said Friday.
Dodik said earlier that BiH would give the icon back if Ukraine could prove that it was looking for it before his meeting with Lavrov.
Bosnia and Herzegovina revealed the origin of the icon presented to Lavrov
“Ukraine does not accept the language of conditions and ultimatums from the member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik. That the icon comes from Ukrainian territory is an indisputable fact. The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine opened criminal proceedings on the case of illegal export. We expect that the Bosnian-Herzegovinian side will not use the icon in the internal political struggle, but will assist in the criminal investigation and examination and in its early return to Ukraine,” the UNIAN news agency quotes Nikolenko as saying.
He added that Ukraine and BiH are parties to the convention on measures against the smuggling of cultural property, which prohibits the importation of relics stolen from museums or churches, and at the request of the other party to the convention must take steps to return cultural property.
Lavrov visited Eastern Sarajevo on Dec. 14 during a visit to BiH, where Dodik presented him with an Orthodox icon reportedly 300 years old that was allegedly “found in Lugansk.” The Ukrainian embassy in Sarajevo then sent a note to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry demanding an explanation of its origin. The Russian Foreign Ministry then transferred the icon to the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Moscow. At the same time, the Russian side recommended its partners to use available legal mechanisms to clarify its origin. The Ukrainian ambassador to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vasyl Kyrylych, said that the icon should be returned to Ukraine.