'Quarter million' of Russian museum items missing: ministry
Nearly a quarter of a million of Russia's museum items have been lost or stolen, media reported Wednesday citing a ministry report, amid growing concern over the fate of the nation's treasures.
"242,000 items are missing across Russia," Lyubov Molchanova, a museum consultant with the ministry said, citing a three-year review by the culture ministry.
"There are search warrants for 24,500 items and 219,000 are missing for unknown and undocumented reasons," she was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti news agency.
Russia's museum collections suffer from lax security and corruption amid staff members, most of whom have low salaries.
Another reason for the disappearing museum items is the practice of giving them to various government officials and regional leaders, Molchanova said.
"Some governors enjoy saying things like: 'Give us something from the museum stocks.' Where workers don't know their rights or lack persistence, it happens," she said.
The cultural ministry checked 1,881 museums in Russia, or 97 percent of all museums in the country. The checks were ordered in 2007 after an inspection of the renowned Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg uncovered gaping holes in its stock.
Police later said that the surreptitious theft of more than 200 jewellery articles and icons stretched over several years and had been orchestrated by a Hermitage employee, Larisa Zavadskaya.
She died of a heart attack before the inspection. Her husband is currently serving a five year jail sentence.
Some missing articles were subsequently found as they were put up for Internet auction abroad.
© 2010 AFP