It’s been almost a year since a curator was linked to the theft of millions of dollars worth of art, jewellery and religious icons from Russia’s Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

An audit ordered by President Vladimir Putin has now been released. A government commission checked 500 museums with 20 million items – only a quarter of the country’s total museum collection.

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says: “The main thing we have found is that over the past 80 years, 160,000 items have gone missing.”

Canada’s CBC reports that since the fall of the Soviet Union, criminal groups specialising in the export of stolen art works targeted underpaid museum staff, offering huge sums of money.

Mr Mednedev says the investigation will now be wrapped up, and the focus will turn to addressing the problems of Russia’s museums.

Apparently the commission is discussing “better security”.

By Rosie Ryan

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31 Jul 2007