Dodik sets his condition for handing over controversial Orthodox icon to Ukraine

NEWS 14.01.2021 17:11
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Source: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Bosnia’s Presidency Chairman, Milorad Dodik, said on Thursday that he is prepared to hand over the gilded Orthodox icon which he initially gifted Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister to Ukrainian authorities if they can prove that they were looking for the artefact before he gave it to Sergey Lavrov.

After Dodik gave Lavrov the 300-year-old gilded icon in December, the Ukrainian Embassy in Sarajevo sent a note to the BiH Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking for detailed information on the origin of what it suspects is a piece of Ukrainian cultural heritage. Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture said the icon could have been illegally taken from the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Luhansk by mercenaries.

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Bosnia’s Prosecutor’s Office has meanwhile launched an investigation into the matter.

By the end of the month, the icon was returned to Bosnia via the Bosnian ambassador in Moscow, per Russia’s request.

Dodik said last week that the entire narrative regarding the artefact was made up and that the media in Bosnia’s semi-autonomous Federation (FBiH) was tasked with creating a “false story.”

This was, however, disputed by Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Dmytro Kuleba.

On Thursday, Dodik mentioned the case while he was criticising the situation in Bosnia’s judiciary, calling it catastrophic.

“An example of that is the icon over which this entire harangue is constantly being led, even though Ukraine is not looking for it,” Dodik said.

He argued that, according to the Agency for Coordination of Police Bodies of BiH, Interpol has no data anyone looking for the icon. He also sad never received an answer from Ukraine as to whether the country was looking for the icon.

“If Ukraine proves that it asked for the icon before the date when I had a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, I will agree to hand it over,” Dodik said.

“However, here the only goal is for me to be under attack, as well as Dragan Covic and his associates,” Dodik said, referring to his political ally and the leader of Bosnia’s Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH).

“All that speaks volumes about the judiciary in BiH,” he said.

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