Collage from Facebook, Balkan Observer

Ukraine is ready to urgently send its experts to Sarajevo, asking local authorities to provide the group access to the icon, which was smuggled out of the occupied Luhansk before resurfacing in Bosnia and ultimately being presented to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

That's according to Ukraine's Ambassador Vasyl Kyrylych, who spoke in Sarajevo with Bosnia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Bisera Turkovic, Ukrainian Pravda reports.

During the meeting, Kyrylych emphasized the fact that Ukraine had never given permission to export the icon in the first place.

Read alsoUkraine furious over icon presented to Lavrov in Bosnia and Herzegovina – mediaIn order to return the artifact to Ukraine as soon as possible, the ambassador said Ukrainian experts were ready to immediately deploy in Sarajevo, and appealed to the Bosnian-Herzegovinian side to assist the team in their work.

Also, having met with Bosnia's chief prosecutor, Kyrylych discussed the issue of cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of the two countries in the relevant case.

Background

The Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, presented a Ukrainian icon to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. After that, the Ukrainian Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina demanded an explanation from that country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs as to how the icon had appeared in the country in the first place.

Subsequently, the Russian foreign ministry announced that they would return the icon to the side that had presented it so that its history could be traced through Interpol.

According to local media reports, the icon is almost 300 years old and was stored in the Ukrainian city of Luhansk, which is now occupied by Russian-controlled forces. Local media reported the relic could be estimated at up to EUR 12.5 million.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Information Policy intends to appeal to law enforcement agencies with a request to establish a chain of the icon's movement from Ukraine to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The prosecutor's office of Bosnia and Herzegovina has opened a respective criminal case.

Milorad Dodik said he would hand back to Ukraine the centuries-old Orthodox icon on condition that Kyiv proved it had actually been searching for it earlier.

Press Secretary for the foreign ministry of Ukraine, Oleh Nikolenko, said: "Ukraine does not accept the language of conditions and ultimatums. […] The fact that the icon comes from Ukrainian territory is indisputable."