The official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, commented on the detention of Russian works of art in Finland. The diplomat’s response is posted on the ministry’s website.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, on April 2-3, the Finnish customs detained three cars en route to Russia under the pretext of a possible violation of the sanctions’ regime. The seizure took place at Vaalimaa, the busiest crossing on the Finland-Russia border. Finnish Customs confirmed it at a press conference on Wednesday.
“The shipments that have now come under criminal investigation were detected as part of our customary enforcement work,” Sami Rakshit, the director of enforcement at Finnish Customs, said.
The agency justified the seizure by saying that “a paragraph” of the EU sanctions against Russia referred to artwork, RT reports.
As specified, the cars were transporting cultural treasures (over 200 paintings) belonging to the Hermitage, the Tretyakov Gallery, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, which had previously been exhibited in Italy and Japan and had already flown by plane from France.
In the presence of the staff of the Russian Embassy on April 5, the cargo was temporarily placed in a specially equipped storage of the Athenaeum Museum in Helsinki until the end of the proceedings.
The Finnish authorities were informed about the inadmissibility of opening sealed packages, Zakharova noted. The diplomat said that Helsinki is now waiting for clarification from the European Commission. The Russian side, in turn, expects Helsinki to make an early decision on the return of works of art to Russia in full.
“In fact, this situation can be described in two words — legal lawlessness. We are talking about the detention, in violation of international law, of cultural values belonging to the Russian Federation and temporarily located abroad under state guarantees of countries in which exhibitions of these items were organized on a non-commercial basis in cooperation with our museums,” Zakharova stated.
Thus, Russia expects Finland to ensure the speedy return of cultural property.
“We expect an early decision by the Finnish authorities to ensure the full return of our works of art to the Russian Federation,” the diplomat stressed.