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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 09:31 GMT
Police stumble on stolen Russian art
The paintings were found in an apartment in Tashkent
The paintings were found in an apartment in Tashkent
Five stolen paintings worth 1.4m have been recovered in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, after police stumbled across them by mistake.

The paintings, which had been stolen from Tashkent Fine Arts Museum in October, were recovered in an unrelated police raid in the Uzbek capital last weekend, the country's interior ministry said.

Officers raided the apartment of two suspected criminals, and noticed the rolled-up canvases in a bag.

The paintings, all by well-known 18th and 19th century Russian artists, were taken when thieves hid in the gallery during the day and took the artworks after it had closed.

Art expert

A security guard who was on duty on the night of the theft committed suicide after the paintings were taken.

Two people were arrested during the police raid, one of whom is a trained art expert.

If convicted, they face up to 16 years in a maximum security prison.

An investigation is continuing to determine who ordered the theft.

Police had suspected that the paintings had been taken to neighbouring Kazakhstan.

'Rich collection'

The stolen paintings were in the museum's permanent collection and once belonged to Grand Prince Constantine, the brother of the last Russian czar, Nicholas II.

They were Sunsets in the Steppe by Aivazovsky, Princess Obolenskaya by Tropinin, A Turkish Woman by Bryullov, A Girl with a Red Bow by Kramskoy, and Surikov's study for his for Morning of the Execution of the Streltsy painting.

Grand Prince Constantine took a number of paintings to Tashkent when he lived there for several years before the 1917 revolution.

The Museum of Fine Arts, established in 1918, claims to have one of the richest collections of paintings in the former USSR.

See also:

06 Apr 01 | Arts
Stolen Renoir recovered
14 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Appeal to save unique Soviet art
28 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Uzbekistan
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