An appeals court in the Netherlands has ruled that Ukraine has legal control over a trove of ancient artifacts from Crimea that was on loan to a Dutch museum when Russia seized the peninsula in 2014.
The items, known as the Scythian Gold, are in the Netherlands because they were borrowed from four museums in Crimea and one in Kyiv for an exhibition in early 2014 at Amsterdam's Allard Pierson Museum.
They were sent before Russia forcibly annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after sending in troops and staging a referendum dismissed as illegitimate by the UN General Assembly.
The pieces, including a solid gold Scythian helmet and a golden neck ornament each weighing more than a kilogram, were on display in the Netherlands when Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
"The Allard Pierson Museum is no longer obliged to return the pieces to the Crimean museums," said the ruling, which can be appealed.
"The rights of the Ukrainian state, based on the Law of Museums ... take precedence," it added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy immediately hailed the decision as a "long-awaited victory."
"The 'Scythian gold' will return to Ukraine. We always will regain what’s ours. After the 'Scythian gold,' we'll get Crimea back," he added.
The appeal came after a court in Amsterdam ruled in 2016 that the collection was part of Ukraine's cultural heritage and should be returned to Kyiv.
The court stated that only sovereign states could claim objects as cultural heritage.
Museums in Moscow-controlled Crimea rejected the ruling saying that the artifacts are part of Crimea’s heritage and should be returned to the museums in the peninsula.
Kyiv has accused Russia of looting many treasures from Crimea since the annexation and feared Moscow would claim the artifacts once they were returned to the Crimean museums.