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Russia will allow an art exhibition to travel to Britain after
Russia will allow an art exhibition to travel to Britain after it enacted a new law on Monday protecting loaned artworks from seizure over legal claims, a senior Russian culture official said.

Russian authorities had threatened to scrap plans to loan paintings by Van Gogh and Matisse for the show "From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925," over fears the artworks could be seized by courts acting for descendants of those who owned them before the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

In a bid to salvage the exhibition, which is due to open at London's Royal Academy of Arts on January 26, Britain enacted the law preventing loaned artworks from being confiscated. The law was originally due to enter into force in February.

"The federal service appreciates the British government's attitude [to the problem], which shows respect for Russian national property," Anatoly Vilkov, deputy head of the cultural watchdog agency, Rosokhrankultura, said speaking on the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

"This law is perfectly in line with our interests. We are positive that our cultural property will be protected against third parties' claims in Britain," Vilkov said.

Vilkov said the paintings could be shipped to London from Dusseldorf, Germany, where they are currently displayed.

He also dismissed allegations that problems with the exhibition were linked to a political dispute between Moscow and London.

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated since the poisoning of former Russian security officer and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London last November.

In July 2007 London expelled Russian diplomats, imposed visa restrictions and suspended anti-terrorism cooperation with Russia after it refused to extradite the main suspect in the case. Moscow retaliated by also expelling diplomats.


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