Ukraine initiates criminal proceedings over the icon from Luhansk and rejects ultimatums from Bosnia - Ministry of Foreign Affairs
As he told the Balkan service of Radio Svoboda (Liberty), the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine has instituted such proceedings under the article on the illegal export of this icon from Ukraine.
As Nikolenko's written statement goes, the fact that the icon comes from the territory of Ukraine is indisputable.
"Ukraine rejects the language of putting forward conditions and ultimatums by a member of the Presidential body of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik," the speaker added, referring to the statements of a prominent Bosnian official that, they say, the icon can be returned to Ukraine only if the latter proves that Ukraine had been searching the icon even before the day when it was presented to Lavrov.
According to Nikolenko, Ukraine expects the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to assist in the criminal investigation to return the icon to Ukraine as soon as possible "instead of turning this icon into a hostage of the internal political struggle" in Bosnia.
On January 14, Dodik stated that he would agree to return the icon to Ukraine only if Ukraine proves this icon was wanted before the day when he gave it to Lavrov on December 14, 2020. As he told the Bosnian-Serbian agency "SRNA", it was not wanted by Ukraine, because, according to the Bosnian police, Interpol has no information about such a search.
Earlier, on January 6, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Kyiv demands the return of this icon stolen from Luhansk.
Previously, on January 5, Dodik stated that he would not return the icon to Ukraine, but would give it to a local family, who, according to him, allegedly owned this icon for several decades and from whom he reportedly received it. But since then, there have been no new reports about the fate of the icon.
Meanwhile, back in late December 2020, Nebojsa Vukanovic, a member of the Republika Srpska Parliament in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that the 300-year-old icon of St. Nicholas was brought to Dodik from Luhansk by Serbian volunteers who fought there against Ukraine on the side of Russian hybrid forces.
Dodik, a member of the collective presidential body of Bosnia and Herzegovina representing Bosnian Serbs, presented the icon to Lavrov on December 14, 2020, during the visit of the Foreign Minister to Bosnia during his personal meeting with him. Then, due to other violations of diplomatic protocol, two other members of the country's Presidency refused to meet with Lavrov.
The mentioned agency "SRNA", announcing the gift, also published photos of the icon and its reverse side with a sealing wax seal and the inscription "URSR People's Commissary for Education, Ukrnauka, Odessa Regional Commission for the protection of material culture artifacts". According to this report, Dodik told Lavrov that this "300-year-old" icon, according to him, comes from Luhansk.
By estimates of art historians, the icon was created in the 18th and 19th centuries.
After Ukraine attracted international attention, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it had handed the icon over to the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Moscow, which, in turn, returned the icon to Dodik back to Bosnia at the end of December. At the same time, in the second half of December, the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina reported that it had started checking the origin of the icon.