Return to Ukraine of eight archaeological objects

Today His Excellency Anatolii Solovei, Minister-counsellor from the Embassy of Ukraine to the Netherlands, has received from Alfred Roos, director of the Information and Heritage Inspectorate of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, eight archaeological objects. Dutch Customs intercepted the objects on their arrival in the Netherlands.

The Inspectorate worked with experts to investigate the objects’ provenance. The possessor of the objects decided to waive any claim to them, as they were legally protected cultural heritage of Ukraine and proved to be unlawfully exported.

Teruggave cultuurgoederen aan Oekraïne
Representatives of Ukraine and the Netherlands government at the return of the cultural objects.

Further investigation eight archaeological objects

The objects, which had been addressed to an individual in the Netherlands, were discovered by Dutch Customs in March 2023. They are spearheads and arrowheads from various archaeological cultures and regions in Ukraine, dating back to periods ranging from Roman times to the Middle Ages. The Information and Heritage Inspectorate worked with experts from the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden) in Leiden to investigate the objects’ provenance. The investigation showed that the objects had likely been illegally exported. After experts from the National Museum of the History of Ukraine confirmed this conclusion, the Inspectorate took the objects into custody.

Prohibition on export of cultural goods

The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine [1] stated that the objects had left Ukraine without authorisation, that they are legally protected cultural heritage of Ukraine, and that Ukraine wants them back. Ukraine has appropriate legislation to protect national cultural heritage. For example, under Ukrainian law it is forbidden to export cultural objects without the consent of the national authorities.


Four archeological objects orginating from Ukraine.

Ukrainian heritage

Ukraine's highly diverse cultural heritage includes manuscripts, icons, religious heritage, textiles, coins and archaeological objects. Since the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, risks for heritage institutions and archaeological sites have multiplied, and the country has been hard hit by plundering and destruction. The EU [1] and UNESCO [2] are actively assisting Ukraine in protecting its cultural heritage. This entails special vigilance when objects are found or offered for sale.

[1]The European Union has taken the following action to protect Ukrainian cultural heritage:

[2] UNESCO is taking the following action to monitor harm to heritage institutions:

ICOM Red List

The International Council of Museums drew up a Red List in 2022 with categories of vulnerable objects. [1] The list is aimed at contributing to greater awareness of Ukrainian heritage, to its recognition and to identification of objects at great risk of illegal excavation, plundering and illegal export. The loss of cultural property does harm to Ukraine’s knowledge of and information about its history and identity.

[1] This is the link for the International Council of Museums Red List for Ukraine:

1970 UNESCO Convention

The objects are being returned to Ukraine in accordance with the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The Netherlands and Ukraine are both States Party to the Convention, which is aimed at fighting trafficking of cultural property. Under the Convention, countries that are party to it are obliged to assist each other when unlawfully exported objects are discovered and to undertake appropriate measures to return them to the country of origin. In this case the Inspectorate investigated the objects’ provenance, and their possessor waived any claim to them. 

Earlier return to Ukraine

In 2018, the Inspectorate also returned archaeological objects to Ukraine that had been discovered by Customs. All those who had the objects in their possession waived any claim to the objects because they recognised the importance of preserving Ukraine’s heritage.