MOSCOW: Russia will return a religious icon given to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by the Bosnian Serb leader after prosecutors in Bosnia said they were trying to determine whether the gift had been illegally smuggled out of war-torn eastern Ukraine.
Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb representative in Bosnia's three-member presidency, gave a 300-year-old gilded icon to Lavrov during a visit the Russian made to Sarajevo this week.
"The icon will be returned to its donors for further clarification on its history via Interpol," the foreign ministry told Russian news agencies on Saturday.
Ukraine's embassy in Sarajevo asked Bosnian authorities to provide further information about the artefact after the Bosnian Serb news agency Srna published a photograph of the icon and its seal of authenticity, which suggested it could be from the city of Lugansk, where pro-Russian separatists have been battling Kiev's forces.
Dodik has not commented on the issue, and his representatives could not immediately be reached for comment on Saturday.
Dozens of Bosnian Serbs have fought alongside the pro-Russian rebels in the war in eastern Ukraine, which began in 2014. Serbia and Bosnia's Serbs have close ties with Russia, with which they share the Eastern Orthodox faith.
The Croatian and Bosniak presidency members refused to meet Lavrov during his visit over what they labelled his "disrespect" for Bosnia's state symbols and institutions.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Additional reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic in Sarajevo; Editing by Frances Kerry)