It was the Scythian gold that Ms. Ibrahimova was most worried about.
She and other staff members secretly hid it and some other historic artifacts in cardboard boxes, stashing the boxes in a dank cellar where they didn’t think anyone would find it.
“We knew that any second someone could come into the museum with a weapon,” she said. So they worked fast, she said, because “the collection is priceless.”
In mid-March, Ms. Ibrahimova said Russian troops burst into her house with assault rifles, threw a black hood over her head and kidnapped her. After several hours of intense questioning, they let her go. Two weeks later she left Melitopol for an area not under Russian control.
But on Wednesday, she received a call from a caretaker at the museum. The caretaker said Russian soldiers, along with intelligence officers and a Russian-speaking man in a white lab coat, had come to her house in the morning and ordered her, at gunpoint, to go with them to the museum.
They commanded her to take them to the Scythian gold.
The caretaker refused, Ms. Ibrahimova said. But the man in the white coat found the boxes anyway with the help of a Ukrainian, Evgeny Gorlachev, who was appointed by the Russian military as the museum’s new director, she said. A Russian crew filmed part of the robbery.
“We hid everything but somehow they found it,” she said.
What was stolen: at least 198 gold items, including ornaments in the form of flowers; gold plates; rare old weapons; 300-year-old silver coins; and special medals. She said many of the gold artifacts had been given to the Scythians by the Greeks.
Russia-Ukraine War: Key Developments Card 1 of 4 Russian oil embargo. European Union countries are likely to approve a phased embargo on Russian oil, sealing a long-postponed measure that has divided the bloc’s members and highlighted their dependence on Russian energy sources. E.U. ambassadors expect to give their final approval by the end of the week, officials said. On the ground. The Ukrainian military said that Russia was deploying forces normally based in the far east of its territory to the main battle front in Ukraine, a potential sign of the strain on Russian troops as they sustain heavy losses and face a well-armed resistance. An evacuation. About 20 women and children were evacuated from Mariupol’s embattled Azovstal steel plant, the Ukrainian military’s last foothold in the city. It remained unclear how many civilians remained inside the plant, which has been under heavy bombardment. An American casualty. Family members of Willy Joseph Cancel Jr., a U.S. citizen, confirmed that he had died fighting alongside Ukrainians. He is believed to be the first American killed in action. A Dane and a Briton have also died fighting for Ukraine since the start of the war, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
In an interview on Russian television, Mr. Gorlachev said the gold artifacts “are of great cultural value for the entire former Soviet Union” and that the previous administrators of the museum “spent a lot of effort and energy” to hide them.