Ukraine's non-resident Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vasyl Kyrylych, on Tuesday asked Bosnia and Herzegovina to take charge of the icon that was previously presented as a gift to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, calling for a joint investigation into its origin.
The ambassador, who is resident in Zagreb, arrived in Sarajevo to meet with Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic and Chief Prosecutor Gordana Tadic and ask for a joint intergovernmental team of experts to establish the icon’s origin.
According to the Bosnian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ukrainian ambassador said that his country had never given permission for the export of the icon, which the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, presented as a gift to Lavrov.
Kyrylych said that the icon in question was a cultural asset of national importance to Ukraine. He demanded that the Bosnian authorities take charge of the icon and allow Ukrainian experts to come to Bosnia and Herzegovina and establish the circumstances surrounding the icon with their Bosnian counterparts, the Bosnian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The Bosnian State Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation to ascertain how the icon ended up in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has returned the work of art to the Bosnian Embassy in Moscow after the scandal broke out. Ambassador Zeljko Samardzija then personally took it to Sarajevo and handed it over to Dodik’s aides. The icon has not been seen since. It is reportedly stored in a safe deposit box in East Sarajevo.
Dodik has said that the icon was given to him as a gift by a person whose name he does not know. He said that he would give the disputed work of art to the unknown donor and ask him to explain how it came into his possession.