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Ukraine invites Netherlands to help probe stolen art being held by a volunteer battalion
Dutch art historian and art detective Arthur Brand (L), Hoorn mayor Yvonne van Mastrigt (C) and Director of the Westfries Museum Ad Geerdink (R) give a press conference on artworks stolen from the museum in 2005, in Hoorn on December 7, 2015. The 24 works of art and 70 pieces of silverware surfaced in the hands of a far-right nationalist militia in Ukraine. All attempts to recover them have so far failed.


KIEV (AFP).- Ukrainian investigators on Thursday called on the Netherlands to help probe the fate of a batch of precious Dutch paintings reportedly being held by a volunteer battalion fighting pro-Russian insurgents in the east of the ex-Soviet state.

"We are waiting - and they are welcomed here in Ukraine - the official investigators who can investigate this material", Ukraine's police chief Khatia Dekanoidze told a press conference.

She said the Dutch experts could work together with their Ukrainian counterparts.

"Our doors are opened, we are transparent", she said.

The Westfries Museum in the Dutch town of Hoorn said on Monday that two dozen 17th-century paintings that went missing a decade ago had been found in a villa in a Ukrainian-controlled part of Donbass - a splintered  zone of a conflict that has already killed more than 9,000 people since April 2014.

Two men claiming to represent the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists battalion now fighting the separatists came to the Dutch embassy in Kiev and showed a picture of one of the stolen works, the Westfries Museum said. 

Dutch media said the men had initially demanded a payment of 50 million euros ($54 million) for the paintings' return.

They later reduced that sum to 5.0 million euros, but Dutch art historian Arthur Brand still called the price "totally unrealistic".

Shortly after the museum's statement, the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists denied holding the works and Ukraine's chief prosecutor launched an investigation.

Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said the case was "very important" for both countries in the runup to an April 6 Dutch referendum on whether to approve Ukraine's new free trade and political association agreement with the EU.



© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse





Today's News

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