Stolen Dutch paintings worth $280,000 recovered by Ukraine

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, April 15 (UPI) — Ukrainian authorities said Friday they recovered a cache of four paintings and other items stolen from a Dutch art gallery.

Pro-Ukraine militia members allegedly stole the items in addition to 20 other paintings and pieces of silver in 2005 from the Westfries Museum in Hoorn, the Netherlands.

In 2015 the works were the subject of a ransom. The museum revealed two men presented photographs of the stolen paintings to the Dutch embassy in Kiev in December 2015, seeking a $54.9 million ransom and a $4.4 million “finder’s fee” for themselves.

The men were believed to members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, who oppose Russia’s military incursions into Ukraine. It was alleged in 2015 that Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, former Ukrainian Security Service chief, and Oleh Tiahnybok of the right-wing Svoboda Party, were implicated in the ransom demand.

The four recovered paintings are valued collectively at $280,000.

The Ukrainian Security Service did not disclose how they found and obtained the artwork, or the whereabouts of the remaining stolen property. Service chief Vasyl Grystak said one was recovered in March, a second in early April and two more on Thursday, and that the artwork had been “in the possession of criminal groups.”

The four paintings, by Dutch artists Hendrick Boogaert, Jacob Waben and Floris van Schooten, were completed in the 17th century.

Westfries director Ad Geerdink said he learned of the recovery by watching television coverage from Kiev of Grystak’s statement, telling The New York Times, “These are, first of all, the four largest paintings, and some of the most important paintings among the collection that were stolen. I didn’t understand much because they were speaking in Ukrainian, but at one moment they brought in four of the paintings, and two were in their frames and two were rolled up.”

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