Crimean artifacts caught up in Ukraine-Russia dispute

A trove of ancient gold is caught in the middle of Ukraine's feud with Russia. With Crimea now a disputed territory, both sides are staking a claim to the treasure.

Last year a museum in Crimea sent a collection of Scythian gold artifacts to Germany and the Netherlands for an exhibit, the Wall Street Journal reports. But when the gold was sent away, along with several other objects from three other Crimean museums, Crimea was under the Ukrainian government's control.

Now, in the wake of a referendum in which Crimean citizens voted to join Russia – and which the United Nations have called illegal – Russian officials claim the gold should be returned to them.

The University of Amsterdam's Allard Pierson Museum told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that the objects would be returned to their "legal ownership," without specifying what that means.

"Given the complexity of the issue, the manner in which the objects will be returned is currently being investigated by the legal advisers of the University of Amsterdam," the museum said, as reported by the WSJ.

Mikhail Shvydkoi, the special representative of the Russian president on international cultural cooperation, said that the items should return directly to Crimea, Russia's RIA Novosti reported.

Earlier this week NBC reported that Russian officials are trying to have the artifacts sent to the Hermitage Muesum in St. Petersburg.

But Russian news agency ITAR-TASS wrote that Russian museum has expressed "concern" over the "destiny of the treasures" but that "does not mean in any way that either the State Hermitage Museum or any other Russian museums have claims to the Crimean museum collections."