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Have the treasures from a Kyiv monastery been removed to be auctioned off in Paris?

A supporter of Ukrainian Orthodox Church holds an icon outside the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery complex in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 1, 2023.
A supporter of Ukrainian Orthodox Church holds an icon outside the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery complex in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 1, 2023. Copyright Roman Hrytsyna/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Roman Hrytsyna/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved
By Sophia Khatsenkova
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A billboard in Paris is allegedly promoting the sale of precious icons that have been removed from the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery. Many social media users are accusing Ukraine of selling these artefacts to raise money for the army. Euronews fact-checked these claims.

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Multiple social media users have been falsely claiming that precious works of art have been stolen from a famous Kyiv monastery to be sold to the West in order to raise money for the Ukrainian army. 

According to a billboard seen in an image on social media, the French auction house Osenat is allegedly organising a sale of relics from the Ukrainian monastery of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. 

The poster claims the event will take place on 1 October 2023. 

Some social media users have accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of removing and selling important objects representing the Russian Orthodox Church in order to continue defending Ukraine.

"Recently there was news that Orthodox relics were being removed from Kiev [sic] to be stored in the West. And now in Paris, they are announcing an auction "Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Treasures. Now the Orthodox relics will be safely stored in the cellars of French collectors," said one Facebook user.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine over the Kyiv Monastery

Founded in the 11th century, the monastery is one of the largest in Ukraine and one of the most important Christian pilgrimage centers in the world, according to UNESCO

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, authorities have been cracking down on the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine over its historic ties to the Kremlin. 

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has actively supported Russian President Vladimir Putin in the war.

Moreover, the church’s representatives in Ukraine have been accused of spreading pro-Kremlin propaganda. 

One common and false pro-Russian narrative has been that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is selling off historic artworks to his allies in order to raise money for defending Ukraine.

A photoshopped stock image

We reached out to the Osenat auction house in the alleged billboard but they did not respond to our request in time.

However, in an interview with Reuters, the company spokesperson said the information was “completely false,” adding “There will be no such auction as described in this picture.”

When looking at their website, we found no upcoming event that mentions Ukrainian artefacts. 

The next auction involving the Russian Art department is scheduled for 24 September, not on 1 October. In fact, the only planned auction for 1 October is the sale of Versailles furniture.

And by doing a reverse image search, we found that the billboard had actually been photoshopped. 

The original image is a stock photo of an outdoor urban advertisement panel on the website Freepik

The billboard itself as well as the background of the buildings are identical to the doctored image.

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