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MOSCOW: Moscow said Saturday that consignments of valuable works of art seized by Finnish customs due to Western sanctions had been returned to Russia.

“Russian paintings from exhibitions in Italy and Japan are on Russian soil,” the culture ministry in Moscow said.

The ministry said three vehicles carrying works of art had earlier crossed the Finnish-Russian border and were on their way to museums in Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

Having been on loan from Russian galleries to museums in Italy and Japan, the paintings, statues and antiques had earlier been seized by Finnish customs, suspected of contravening EU sanctions.

On Thursday, Moscow summoned the Finnish ambassador to Russia, Antti Helantera, over the seizure of valuables, calling it “legal lawlessness.”

Later that day, Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said his country was in talks with Brussels to find a way to return the works to Russia as soon as possible.

On Saturday, the French government said that two pictures from a hit Paris art exhibition of masterpieces from a Russian collection rarely seen abroad are to remain in France.

The Morozov collection attracted more than a million visitors while on show for over six months in Paris before finally closing earlier this month. One picture owned by a Russian oligarch targeted by Western sanctions and another belonging to a Ukrainian museum “will stay in France”, the culture ministry said.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24, the EU adopted a series of sanctions including those prohibiting the sale, supply, transfer or export of luxury goods — including works of art — to Russia.

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