Ukraine recovers four stolen Dutch paintings
Ukraine said Thursday it has recovered four 17th-century paintings that were stolen a decade ago from a Dutch museum and whose alleged presence in the hands of an ultranationalist Ukrainian militia had sparked a row.
Ukrainian authorities said they recovered four paintings that are part of a group of 24 Dutch Golden Age masterpieces that went missing from the Netherlands' Westfries Museum in 2005. At the time of their disappearance, the paintings were valued at a total of 10 million euros ($11 million).
"We have found several paintings that were stolen from the Dutch museum," Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin said at a press conference alongside security officials and the Dutch ambassador to Ukraine.
Klimkin did not explain how authorities had retrieved the missing paintings but said the works had been "in the possession of criminal groups."
The head of Ukraine's state security service, Vasyl Grytsak, said Kiev had received the first painting in early March, with the second painting arriving earlier this month.
"We received two more paintings this afternoon," Grytsak said at the press conference, where two of the paintings were on display. "A preliminary examination has determined they are authentic."
The Westfries Museum, located in the Dutch town of Hoorn, said in December that the 24 missing paintings were thought to be in the hands of an ultranationalist militia fighting the pro-Russian insurgency in east Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 9,200 people since April 2014.
Two men who identified themselves as members of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) in July presented a picture of one of the stolen works to the Dutch embassy in Kiev, the museum said.
The men alleged they had found the entire missing collection -- containing works by landscape painter Jan van Goyen, among others -- in an abandoned villa in the conflict-wracked east.
Dutch media reported that the alleged OUN members had initially demanded 50 million euros for the paintings' return before asking for the smaller sum of 5 million.
The OUN later denied it was holding the art work as Ukrainian authorities launched an investigation.
© 2016 AFP