KYIV -- The dismissed director of Ukraine's National Museum of Art is calling for a new search for two masterpiece paintings that were loaned for display in a government building in 2001 but may have since disappeared.
Anatoliy Melnyk made the call after a new round of tests conducted this week showed that two paintings now hanging in the place of the masterpieces in the cabinet of ministers' building in Kyiv are merely copies of the originals.
He told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that "the test earlier this week shows that these are not the works which we loaned out. These pieces were made in this century, after the year 2000."
The two missing paintings are by Ukrainian impressionist Mykola Hlushchenko and have an insured value of more than 1 million hryvnyas ($125,000). They are titled "Dnipro Valley" and "Village on the River."
Melnyk was dismissed from his post as museum director on April 5.
He claims one of the reasons for his dismissal may be his insistence since 2010 upon the return of the paintings to the museum.
"I understand it's not possible to throw suspicion upon the whole government. Just one or two people who work there could have done it," he told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service.
"Or perhaps more than one, since someone else must have worked on the counterfeiting."
The Culture Ministry says Melnyk was dismissed for failing the fulfill the goals of his position.
Ukrainian media this week reported that several original paintings by Hlushchenko that were loaned to the government had disappeared. The government rejected the reports.
It has long been common practice in Ukraine for government buildings to decorate important reception rooms with works that show the nation's achievements in art and culture.