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  Friday, August 23, 2019
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President Vladimir Putin has ordered the government to set up a commission by September 1 to conduct an inventory of all cultural treasures in the country's museums
President Vladimir Putin has ordered the government to set up a commission by September 1 to conduct an inventory of all cultural treasures in the country's museums, the first deputy prime minister said Thursday. Russian authorities voiced concern over the security of Russia's museum collections following recently revealed major artwork thefts worth millions of dollars, including from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, which spotlighted a poor security record and low funding of country's cultural institutions since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Dmitry Medvedev said the commission would comprise representatives of the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Culture and Mass Communication, the Federal Security Service, the Prosecutor General's Office and other bodies. The Hermitage, which boasts one of the richest art collections, said after a routine inventory check in late July that 221 items worth $4.85 million had gone missing from storage, including icons, medieval and 19th-century jewelry, silverware and enameled objects. The Hermitage said staff members were likely to have been involved in the theft as only insiders had access to the museum's storerooms. The curator in charge of the missing items died suddenly when the check that identified the stealing began. Police detained three suspects, including the husband and son of the late museum curator. A total of 13 stolen artifacts have been returned to the museum. Two of them were returned by antique aficionados in Moscow after the list of the stolen items was published on the Hermitage's Web site. On Tuesday, Russia's cultural heritage watchdog reported the theft from state archives of scores of drawings and graphic designs by Yakov Chernikhov, a famous Soviet-era constructivist architect and author of a series of avant-garde art books. The theft was revealed after nine Chernikhov drawings were sold at Christie's on June 22. The watchdog said the items stolen from the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art could be worth several million dollars and added that 274 Chernikhov drawings worth $1.3 million had already been regained from antiques markets in Russia and abroad.
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