Finnish Customs has seized artwork en route to Russia as part of sanctions imposed by the European Union. The paintings, sculptures and antiquities are worth 42 million euros ($46 million), the agency said.
Sami Rakshit, director of Finnish Customs’ Enforcement Department, did not specify the exact number of works or give details about the artists in response to queries from The Washington Post.
Russia’s Culture Ministry was quoted by the Russian news agency Moskva as saying that the artwork had been loaned to Italy from St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum and Tsarskoye Selo state museum and Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery, according to Reuters. The Hermitage Museum did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The European Union has imposed extensive sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, as has the United States. Finland’s Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed to Finnish Customs that the list of E.U. sanctions includes works of art, the agency said.
“It is important that the enforcement of sanctions works effectively. The enforcement of sanctions is part of our normal operations, and we always direct our controls based on risks. The shipments that have now come under criminal investigation were detected as part of our customary enforcement work,” Rakshit said.
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The customs agency has started a preliminary investigation and will continue to consult with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which will discuss the matter with the European Commission.
“Finnish Customs will keep the art seized while they are needed for investigation as evidence. What happens next will depend on the outcome of the investigation,” Rakshit told The Post.
The artwork seizure comes a week and a half after Finnish Customs seized 21 yachts suspected to be owned by Russian oligarchs.
Rachel Pannett contributed to this report.