Finnish customs seize works of art worth 42 million euros on their way back to Russia

HELSINKI, April 6 (Reuters) – Finnish customs said on Wednesday they had prevented the return of artworks worth around 42 million euros ($46 million) to Russia over the weekend. end last due to European Union sanctions, and that they would consult Brussels on their status as luxury goods.

Customs seized three shipments of paintings, statues and antiquities on their way back to Russia via Finland from Italy and Japan, where they were temporarily on loan from Russian museums and art galleries, said Sami Rakshit, director of Finland’s customs enforcement department.

Rakshit said the artworks are considered luxury items that fall under EU sanctions against Russia, imposed for its invasion of Ukraine. Russia calls it “a special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor.

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The confiscated items remain Russian property and would be stored under the supervision of the Finnish Heritage Agency, customs said.

The Russian Moskva news agency quoted the Russian culture ministry as saying that the artworks arrested by Finland were loaned to Italy from the collections of major Russian art galleries such as the Museum of Art. ‘Hermitage and the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum in Saint Petersburg as well as the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Other works of art from Japan are from the Pushkin National Museum of Fine Arts, he added.

Finnish customs suspect a dozen people involved in the transport of trying to breach the sanctions rules, they said.

Last month, two museums in Milan announced they would return several works of art on loan after Russian museums asked for their early return. Read more

($1 = 0.9159 euros)

(This story refiles to correct a typo)

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Reporting by Anne Kauranen Editing by Alexandra Hudson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Christopher S. Washington