WASHINGTON - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, through the Department of Homeland Security, returned 10 stolen artifacts to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a repatriation ceremony Sept. 21 at the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, D.C.
“These artifacts, which embody the unique history of Ukraine and the centuries-old resolve of its people, will reside at home where they belong,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “It is my sincere hope that now, these enduring pieces of history also will forever tell the story of the bond between Ukraine and the United States of America.”
The artifacts included three 17th – 18th century European iron axes with hammer backs, three 17th – 18th century European pickaxes, two Scythian Akinakes iron swords dating from the fifth – sixth century B.C., a European socketed iron spear head, and a European iron axe dating back to the 17th – 18th centuries. The items were seized in September 2022 by CBP officers at the John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) International Mail Facility with the help of the New York Field Office of CBP’s Fines, Penalties, and Forfeiture Unit, and were identified as Ukrainian cultural property, based on information from CBP’s National Targeting Center, Antiquities Unit.
“We were deeply proud to return these relics to the people of Ukraine on behalf of the American people,” said Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner Troy A. Miller. “The men and women of CBP work diligently to prevent illicit goods, including priceless artifacts that have been stolen or looted, from crossing our borders. We will continue to work with our colleagues to ensure each antiquity we find makes it back to its rightful home.”
The ceremony took place during President Zelenskyy’s visit to the United States for the United Nations General Assembly. CBP’s Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner Troy A. Miller, Acting Executive Commissioner of Field Operations Diane Sabatino, and Director of Field Operations in the New York Field Office, Frank Russo attended the ceremony. Also in attendance were Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova, and several senior officials of Ukraine’s government. The Department of Homeland Security enforces cultural property import restrictions agreed to in bilateral agreements with 25 countries, as well as import restrictions for four countries with emergency actions or emergency protections. These bilateral agreements, emergency actions, and emergency protections protect cultural property by restricting U.S. imports of certain categories of archeological and ethnological material, reducing the incentive for looting at heritage sites. Read more about these bilateral agreements on the import of cultural property.
Since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2023 to now, CBP at JFK has recorded 17 seizures of cultural property with a domestic value exceeding $745,000. Cultural property is often described as priceless due to its age, rarity, and identification with national heritage. CBP officers screen international travelers and cargo and search for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation’s safety and economic vitality.