Ukraine hands back stolen paintings to Dutch museum

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KIEV (Reuters) - Kiev authorities handed over to the Netherlands on Friday five masterpieces stolen from a Dutch museum in 2005 and recovered in Ukraine earlier this year.

The paintings - part of a group of 24 works valued at 10 million euros when they went missing in 2005 - were said in December to have been discovered in a villa in a pro-Russian separatist controlled area of eastern Ukraine.

Dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, they will now head back to Westfries Museum in Hoorn, north of Amsterdam, from where they first disappeared when thieves hid in the building before closing time and disabled the alarm system before making off with the artworks.

“I can’t wait to see these beautiful objects of art back in the place where they belong,” Westfries Museum director Ad Geerdink said at a handover ceremony at the Dutch embassy in Kiev. “It will feel like some of our lost sons finally come home.”

The Dutch foreign ministry listed the five paintings as Jacob Waben’s “Vrouw Wereld” (Lady World) and “Terugkeer van Jefta” (The Return of Jephta), “Keukenstuk” (Kitchen Scene) by Floris van Schooten, Hendrick Boogaert’s “Boerenbruiloft” (A Peasant Wedding) and “Nieuwstraat in Hoorn” (New Street in Hoorn) by Izaak Ouwater.

“It’s still not clear where the other paintings are and how long it will take to recover them,” it said in a statement.

Reporting by Reuters Television; Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Tom Heneghan