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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Cutlery thieves feed off Duma
The quality of metal cutlery has improved since Soviet times

Russia's monolithic parliament building has been hit by a spate of thefts since elections in December brought in a fresh intake of MPs.

An investigation by a daily newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, has revealed that cutlery thieves are targeting the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.

A report in the tabloid says thefts of cutlery and crockery from the parliament's canteens and bars have soared in recent months.

It is more than a storm in a teacup.

The thieves have not yet been identified - and the problem is so serious that plastic teaspoons have now started appearing, in the absence of metal ones.

"In the past, six or seven spoons would go missing each week," one employee told the paper. "But now they're nicking between 30 and 40 spoons, and 15 or so forks as well."

No joke

A reporter went in search of the missing teaspoons, whose disappearance has upset catering staff. They are docked pay for every item of cutlery which goes astray.

The disappearance of the spoons doesn't surprise me. All sorts of people come into parliament
MP Gennady Raykov

Under Communist rule, petty theft also occurred, but its scale was more modest, and did not impact on staff pockets.

Now, the serving ladies are "bewildered", the paper reports.

One elderly worker almost burst into tears when approached. "There's never been anything like it in the whole history of the State Duma," she told the reporter.

"Cups and saucers are also being nicked, but they can be written off as breakages. You can't write off metal cutlery."


MPs appear unperturbed by the criminal activities in their midst.

"The disappearance of the spoons doesn't surprise me," MP Gennady Raykov told the paper. "All sorts of people come into parliament."

"They could even roll up a carpet or two and slip them out."

One of Mr Raykov's colleagues, Sergei Glotov, also subscribes to the view that the thefts are the work of outsiders. He says that it is not MPs who are to blame, but the guests they invite into the building.

In the absence of a souvenir shop, he suggests, many of them simply help themselves to some of the Russian parliament's finest tableware.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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