"Channel 5" reveals details of the ongoing investigation of 10 icons missing from Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra
The case of missing valuables from the Kyiv-Pechersk nature reserve has been under investigation for two years. This practically detective story related to the disappearance of religious shrines began in fall 2018. The first large-scale audit of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra was conducted in the last thirty years. The Ministry of Culture and the Security Service did not count several values of the XIX century, at least ten icons.
All materials were handed over to the National Police and criminal proceedings were initiated under Part 3 Article 191. These articles relate to "Appropriation and embezzlement of property on a particularly large scale". They provide for the sanction from three to eight years."
Searches and investigative actions were carried out. But throughout the two years, the public has not been advised where the shrines are.
Channel 5 journalist Anna Rybalka, as part of Results of the Week TV program, tried to understand at what stage is the investigation into the case of missing valuables and what rarities are missing in the Lavra.
"10 items remain missing and their location has not been established," says Yulia Datsenko, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Culture (2016-2019).
Not only icons but also the cross and chalice – the chalice for worship – have disappeared. These are a part of the things that the National Reserve transferred from the State Museum funds to the monastery in 2013. The main keeper of the reserve says: the shrines belonged not to the main fund, but the auxiliary one. This means that their value is not fixed on paper.
They prefer not to speak out loud word "theft" in the Lavra. They refer to the version of the Lavra manual.
"Probably the have been disposed of. Or they may have been passed on to someone. To one of the monasteries. "Probably the have been disposed of. This was already signed by Abbot Pavlo. You know, the media allege a lot of things. However, both stealing such icons and selling them – they are not worth selling, " says Deputy Director-General of the National Kyiv-Pechersk Cultural Reserve Oleksandr Rudnyk.
From its sources, "Results of the Week" managed to get an accurate list of stolen rarities from the Lavra. It contains nine icons of the late XIX century with Pechersk saints, "Theotokos of Iveron", "Theotokos of Sukho-Kaligorsk".
Journalists showed this list to Dmytro Stepovyk, an expert in the shrines of Kyivan Rus, an art critic, and professor at the Kyiv Orthodox Theological Academy. He was impressed.
"They are very valuable, I think that each of these icons could cost from 10 to 50 thousand dollars or euros. All the icons from the Lavra of the Kyiv themes are very popular in the world. This adds to the price. The icons were produced by a wonderful school headed by Rokachevsky. This adds to the price once again. Third, the icons come from the monastery itself," explains the art critic.
The art critic believes that the most valuable in this list is a high-quality copy of the Vyshgorod Icon of the Mother of God of the XII century. In Russia, it is known as "Volodymyrska". The removal of its original to Moscow many centuries ago, art historians call the theft of the millennium. History knows a lot of such cases when the shrines of Kyivan Rus were brazenly stolen and transported to Moscow.
The possible export to Russia of not only part of the Pechersk icons, but also the relics of saints, was previously stated by the previous management of the reserve, and MPs. They complained that the state had lost control over its shrines. Back in 2013, the government of Azarov gave the Lavra most of the buildings on the territory of the Kyiv-Pechersk Nature Reserve.
Now the President's website hosts a petition to terminate the lease agreement. The appeal to the guarantor was signed by 27 thousand people.
Tetyana Popova, former Deputy Minister of Information Policy, says: "the Ministry of Culture has the right to check. And the SBU has the right to initiate criminal proceedings if something is missing. And if this is constantly happening, accordingly, at least the caves could be removed from their subordination."
Who became the owner of the Pechersk icons, investigators are now finding out. Since the scandal broke, no public statements have been heard from law enforcement. But "Results of the Week" found out: the investigation has already been supplemented with new facts related to the theft of property.