Russian looters targeting ‘stunning’ Ukrainian treasures, investigation warns

·2-min read
An example of Scythian gold work similar to items targeted for theft in Ukraine
An example of Scythian gold work similar to items targeted for theft in Ukraine

Russian gangs are stealing historical artefacts from Ukraine and smuggling them back over the border, according to international observers tracking their crimes.

A US-based team monitoring culture thefts since the Russian invasion began, has picked up a pattern of criminals targetting valuable Scythian gold produced by tribes of Nomads who spread from Siberia across to modern-day Ukraine from the 7th century BC.

Anthropologist Brian Daniels said there was “very strong evidence” the gangs were targeting “specific paintings and ornaments”.

He told the Observer: “These items are visually stunning, and there are now so many reports of thefts it is evident that it is a strategy.

“The Ukrainians, of course, are also very keen that we establish a list of stolen items.”

He added it was not clear if the artefacts were being taking for their monetary value or because their loss would damage the cultural identity of an independent Ukraine.

Last month it was reported that Russian troops had abducted a museum curator in Melitopol, Southern Ukraine, after she refused, at gunpoint, to divulge the location of valuable artefacts from the museum’s collection.

Despite her defiance, nearly 200 items, including a collection of 2,300 year-old gold Scythian pieces, were later looted by the gun-toting raiders.

A 2017 British Museum show brought over more than 200 Scythian treasures from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, to tell the story of the tribe who occupied land stretching from the edge of China through Siberia, down to Greece and the Black Sea between the 9th to the 3rd centuries BC.

Among the objects to go on show are gold necklaces, ornate saddles and weapons, as well as a decorated leather bag containing some lumps of cheese protected by the natural deep freeze of the Siberian wilderness.

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