THE HAGUE (AFP).- A Dutch museum said on Wednesday it would delay the return of Crimean archaeological treasures it is exhibiting, fearing a legal tussle with either Russia or Ukraine.
The priceless medieval artefacts, on loan from four Crimean museums, went on display at Amsterdam's Allard Pierson Museum in February, less than a month before the peninsula was annexed by Russia.
The museums, now under Russian authority, have asked for them to be returned, while the Ukrainian government in Kiev has also claimed the treasures.
The exhibition, entitled "The Crimea: Gold and Secrets from the Black Sea", features items spanning the 2nd century BC to the late medieval era, including a ceremonial Scythian helmet made from gold, as well as a lacquered box, originally from China, which in Roman times found its way to Crimea via the Silk Road.
An extensive and ongoing legal investigation had yet to "agree to a claim by one of the parties", the museum said, describing the situation as "unique and complex".
Returning the artefacts to either party "would almost certainly result in a claim by the other party, a substantial risk for the Allard Pierson Museum."
The disputed collection will be safely stored "until more becomes clear" and there is a ruling by "a qualified judge or arbitrator, or further agreement between parties."
Crimea was at the crossroads of ancient trade routes and the shores of the Black Sea peninsula have long been excavated by archeologists, yielding fantastic treasures.
The exhibition ends on August 31.
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