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February 5, 2024

The Ongoing Struggle Against Illicit Cultural Item Smuggling from Ukraine

As stated on the official Facebook page of the State Customs Service of Ukraine,  customs officers in Chernivtsi foiled an attempt to smuggle archaeological artefacts out of the country last week. 

On February 3rd, a Ukrainian citizen's vehicle, entering the customs control zone at the Porubne-Siret checkpoint exiting the country for Romania opted for the "green corridor," lane.  This exit point is reserved for individuals who are not transporting items which require declaration.

However, during the routine customs inspection, officers collaborated with the State Border Guard Service personnel in the Chernivtsi region and uncovered various archaeological items, including fragments of horse armor, pieces of jewelry, crosses, household items, and Byzantine glass elements. These items fall under the purview of Ukraine's law on "the export, import, and return of cultural values" dated September 21, 1999, making their removal from the customs territory illegal.

Customs authorities documented a breach of customs regulations in accordance with Article 483, Part 1, of the Customs Code of Ukraine. They then forwarded a notification outlining the unlawful activity, which displayed indications of a criminal offense, to the appropriate law enforcement agency.  A total of 124 archaeological objects were confiscated during the interception.


In November 2023, another stop customs officers in Chernivtsi, again with a driver choosing the "green corridor" lane to pass the customs control, resulted in the seizure of 100 books and one religious icon that likewise were not declared and not presented to customs control, in contravention of the law on export, import and return of cultural values.

That same month, Kyiv customs officers also seized heritage items, exiting the country via mail shipments.  These included an icon of "The Lord Almighty" (XIX-XX centuries) from the famous Borisov icon-painting school, a Bronze Cross-Encolpion (XII-XIII centuries) with relief images of Christ, Virgin and scenes of Crucifixion, used to hold the relics of saints in the times of Kyivan Rus and another grouping of small historic finds. They were heading from Kyiv Oblast and Ternopil Oblast to the United States.