The Soviet republic of the Ukraine said this week it was serious about trying to retrieve gold deposited by a soldier in the Bank of England 270 years ago, a cache that one Ukrainian lawmaker says could now be worth $29 trillion.
"Don't anybody consider this a legend," Gennady Oudovenko, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations, told a news conference. "This is not a legend. This is reality."The Bank of England says it has no record of the claim in its current operations and safe-deposit accounts.
"Now we're digging in our archives to see if we can trace the relevant account relationship," a spokesman said.
One Ukrainian lawmaker estimates the gold would be worth an astonishing $29 trillion if accrued interest were applied to current gold prices.
Deputy Vladimir Yavorivsky told the Ukrainian legislature that claims had been launched for the return of the gold, though the Bank of England said two days later it had not received an official request.
Ukraine's ambassador in Geneva, Andrei Ozadovski, told the news conference that a parliamentary committee had instructed the foreign minister to search for needed documents.
The Ukrainians say the gold was lodged in what is now Britain's central bank by Ukrainian military leader Col. Pavel Polubotok as he set out for talks with the Russian imperial government.
He willed the gold to a sovereign and independent Ukraine and then died a captive of Czar Peter the Great. The Ukraine declared itself sovereign July 16.
Just how much gold was deposited is not certain and the Ukrainians appeared to be looking to Britain to clarify the situation.
"What we need are documents, and Her Majesty's government is in possession of these documents," Oudovenko said.