The Orthodox icon which the Chairman of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency and its Serb member, Milorad Dodik, gave to Russian Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergey Lavrov, was the property of a family in the city of Banja Luka and is not a peace of Ukraine’s cultural heritage or registered in Interpol’s database of stolen works of art, Dodik’s advisor, Radovan Kovacevic, said on Thursday.
After Dodik gave Lavrov the 300-year-old gilded icon last week, 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.
Bosnia’s Prosecutor’s Office has meanwhile launched an investigation into the matter, and Russia returned the icon via Bosnia’s Embassy there until the matter is resolved.
According to Kovacevic, however, the allegations that it was stolen from Ukraine are baseless and politically motivated.
„The icon was the private ownership of a family from Banja Luka which was in possession of it for more than 15 years. They wanted the icon to be given to Lavrov,“ Kovacevic told RTRS, the public broadcaster of Bosnia’s semi-autonomous Republika Srpska (RS) entity.
„Of course, the icon has a sentimental value and a value based on the fact that it is an Orthodox icon that has been consecrated, but it has no significant material value,“ he said.
He argued that similar icons can be purchased on the internet, adding that “there is a lot of them and they cost between 100 and 200 Euros.”
Nobody is officially looking for the artifact and it is not registered anywhere, he said.
„I believe that the public knows that there is an Interpol database which has existed since 1951, following the Second World War, when a large number of works of art were stolen and searched for. There is one database, which is very detailed and contains thousands of artifacts of BiH, but of course, this icon is not there,” Kovacevic pointed out.
“We are not talking about some piece of cultural heritage or anything similar. Those are simply speculations which nobody presented any evidence for, and the motive behind them is completely and clearly political,” he stressed.