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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 August 2006, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Putin orders massive arts audit
The Hermitage in St Petersburg
The Hermitage has one of the finest art collections in the world
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a nationwide inventory of cultural treasures after valuable works were stolen from the Hermitage Museum.

More than 220 items worth $5m (2.7m) - including jewellery and religious icons - were stolen over several years from the world-famous St Petersburg museum.

An enquiry revealed the museum had not carried out an inventory for decades.

Mr Putin ordered the government to set up a commission to conduct the audit by 1 September.

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, quoted by Itar-Tass news agency, said Mr Putin had told the interior ministry, culture ministry, Federal Security Service (FSB), prosecutor-general's office and other executive bodies to take part in the commission's work.

Three people have been arrested in connection with the thefts at the Hermitage, including the son and husband of a dead curator.

The Hermitage, one of the world's most famous art museums, has more than 2.5 million works of art, housed in more than 1,000 rooms.

Art experts say Russian museums, galleries and archives have been suffering from lax security, poor record-keeping and lack of funding for years.

Inside the Hermitage museum

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