Ukraine says Russia stole gold artifacts from museums

“For what purpose, no one knows,” he said. “But thanks to these people and the operational work done, the inhabitants of the city of Melitopol – and not just Melitopol – will be able to observe again a large collection of Scythian gold.” He did not say when or where the artifacts would be displayed.

Ms. Ibrahimova, who spoke on the phone, seemed frustrated when talking about the Russian invaders.

“Perhaps culture is their enemy,” she said. “They say that Ukraine has no state, no history. They just want to destroy our country. I hope they won’t succeed.”

Scythian gold has great symbolic value in Ukraine. Other collections of artifacts were stored in vaults in the capital Kyiv before the war broke out. But Ms. Ibrahimova said events happened so quickly that her museum could not complete their collection.

For many years now, Ukraine has been locked down in a complicated dispute with Russia about the Scythian gold collections that several museums in Crimea had lent to a museum in Amsterdam. After Russia occupied Crimea in 2014, Ukraine begged the Amsterdam museum not to return the gold. Russia asked the museum to do it. A court ruled in favor of Ukraine and the gold remained in Amsterdam.

But historians say the looting of Melitopol artifacts is an even more serious attempt to appropriate, and possibly destroy, Ukraine’s cultural heritage.

“The Russians are waging war without rules,” said Oleksandr Symonenko, a member of the Ukrainian Institute of Archeology and a Scythian expert. “This is not a war. It is destroying our lives, our nature, our culture, our industry, everything. This is a crime.”

The caretaker who refused to help the Russian was released on Wednesday after the gold was stolen. But on Friday, she was taken from her home with a gun again, Ms. Ibrahimova said, shortly after the mayor, who also lives in exile, announced the burglary.

She hasn’t been heard from since.

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