Poroshenko stolen art
Ukrainian prime minister Poroshenko inspects the recovered art stolen from a gallery in Verona in NovemberHandout

Ukrainian border police have recovered a haul of art stolen from an Italian gallery including masterpieces by Rubens and Tintoretto.

Ukrainian border guards found the paintings hidden in plastic bags on a small island in the Dniester River, about a mile from the Moldovan border.

The 17 works included pieces by Old Masters Peter Paul Rubens, Pisanello, Caroto, Tintoretto and Mantegna. They were stolen from Verona's Castelvecchio museum in November, 2015, and have a combined estimated value of 15 million euros ($16 million; £11 million).

"Today, this brilliant operation reminds the world about the efficient struggle of Ukraine against smuggling and corruption, inter alia, smuggling of works of art," said Ukrainian prime minister Petro Poroshenko presenting the recovered works in Kiev.

"We have not only preserved the global value of these paintings, but also reaffirmed Ukraine's prestige by such efficient actions," Poroshenko added.

It comes a month after Ukrainian authorities recovered four Dutch paintings that were among 24 stolen from the Westfries Museum, Hoorn in the Netherlands in 2005, and subsequently offered for sale by a Ukrainian far right militia. Ukraine is currently under pressure from international backers to tackle organised crime and corruption problems. Ukrainian authorities will invite international experts to authenticate the paintings.

In November the masked thieves entered the gallery after it closed and before the alarm system had been turned on, tied up the guards and stole the paintings. Italian police suggested that the art may have been stolen to order for a Chechnyan buyer.

In March, Italian authorities said 13 members of the gang allegedly behind the theft had been arrested in Italy and Moldova. They included the Italian security guard on duty on the night of the theft as well as his twin brother and his Moldovan wife.