Russian artworks seized by Finland returned to homeland
Finland returned seized Russian artworks worth around $46 million after Finnish customs seized them under the pretext of violating EU sanctions.
Shipments of valuable artworks seized by Finnish customs due to Western sanctions had been returned to their home country, Russia, on Saturday.
"Russian paintings from exhibitions in Italy and Japan are on Russian soil," the Ministry of Culture in Moscow said.
According to the ministry, three vehicles carrying the artworks had crossed the Finnish-Russian border while on their way to museums in Saint Petersburg and Moscow.
Finland seizes Russian-bound art worth 42mn euros
Three consignments of rare artworks headed for Russia were seized by Finnish customs last weekend, under the pretext of violating EU sanctions, according to officials.
The shipments "include works that cannot be appraised, they are priceless," customs enforcement director Hannu Sinkkonen said at a press conference, adding that the works had been valued at more than 42 million euros ($46 million) for insurance purposes.
The paintings, statues, and antiques had been on loan from Russian galleries to museums in Italy and Japan and were being returned, with the head of enforcement Sami Rakshit confirming that some of the artworks were from St Petersburg's Hermitage gallery.
Officials said ten persons are suspected of violating economic legislation after the EU imposed sanctions on the sale, supply, transfer, or export of luxury items – including pieces of art – to Russia in mid-March.
Over the weekend, customs inspectors seized the products at the Vaalimaa border crossing between Finland and Russia.
They will be held in a warehouse until the matter is explained or the sanctions are lifted, according to officials, who added that the Foreign Ministry has discussed the seizure with Russia's envoy to Finland.
"Professionals have been consulted in the moving and storage of the goods," Sinkkonen said, adding, "We are not going to open the packages."
Since the EU slapped broad sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, Finnish customs officials have also barred 21 luxury yachts from leaving Finnish seas while agents investigate if the vessels belong to sanctioned persons.
Authorities have so far impounded one vessel, according to Finnish media.