Ukraine Says Russia Looted Ancient Gold Artifacts From a Museum

“For what purpose nobody knows,” he said. “But thanks to these people and the operational work carried out, residents of the city of Melitopol – and not just Melitopol – will again be able to observe a large collection of Scythian gold.” He did not say when or where the artifacts would be displayed.

Ms Ibrahimova, speaking on the phone, sounded despondent as she spoke of the Russian invaders.

“Maybe culture is the enemy for them,” she said. “They said Ukraine has no state, no history. They just want to destroy our country. I hope they don’t succeed.”

Scythian gold has enormous symbolic value in Ukraine. Other collections of the artifacts were stored in vaults in the capital Kiev before the war broke out. But Ms. Ibrahimova said events unfolded too quickly for her museum to sift through their collection.

Ukraine has been locked up for years in a complicated dispute with Russia about collections of Scythian gold that various museums in Crimea had lent to a museum in Amsterdam. After Russia took Crimea in 2014, Ukraine begged the Amsterdam museum not to return the gold. Russia demanded that the museum do just that. A court has ruled in Ukraine’s favor and the gold remains in Amsterdam.

But historians said the looting of the artifacts at Melitopol is an even grosser attempt to appropriate and perhaps destroy Ukraine’s cultural heritage.

“The Russians are waging a war without rules,” said Oleksandr Symonenko, a fellow of the Ukrainian Archaeological Institute and a Scythian specialist. “This is not a war. It destroys our lives, our nature, our culture, our industry, everything. This is a crime.”

The janitor who refused to help the Russians was released on Wednesday after the gold was stolen. But on Friday, she was again taken from her home at gunpoint, Ms Ibrahimova said, shortly after the mayor, who is also in exile, announced the theft.

Nothing more has been heard of her since then.


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