Russia to give icon that sparked controversy back to Bosnia

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, listens Bosnian Serb official Milorad Dodik, who is the member of Bosnia's multi-ethnic presidency during a press conference after their talks in the capital Sarajevo, Bosnia, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Lavrov is on a two-day visit to Bosnia. (AP Photo/Kemal Softic)

MOSCOW – Russia said Saturday it will return an Orthodox icon presented to the Russian foreign minister in Bosnia, a gift that has triggered a protest from Ukraine.

The presiding Serb member of Bosnia’s three-member presidency, Milorad Dodik, gave the icon to Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov when he visited Sarajevo earlier this week. The icon, which was said to be 300 years old, is believed to originate from eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed rebels have fought Ukrainian troops in a six-year conflict.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Sarajevo has requested information on how the Bosnian Serb leader came to possess the icon, noting that the failure to provide the information would mean Bosnia is supporting Russia’s “aggressive policy and military actions’’ in eastern Ukraine. Dozens of Serbs have fought alongside the pro-Russia rebels in the conflict, which started in 2014.

On Saturday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said the icon would be returned to Bosnia pending an Interpol probe to clarify its origins.