Famous Russian painting recovered after brazen daytime heist
Russian police have detained a man who allegedly entered one of Moscow's top art galleries and casually walked out with a painting in his hand.
Security footage from the Tretyakov Gallery on Sunday evening showed the suspect strolling through the gallery before leaning forward and pulling "Ai-Petri.Crimea," a romantic mountain scene by prominent Russian landscape artist Arkhip Kuindzhi from its display.
A 31-year-old man was detained in the village of Zarechye on the outskirts of Moscow, Russian Interior Ministry spokeswoman, Irina Volk, told reporters Monday.
Volk said the painting was recovered from a construction site in the nearby Odintsovo area.
"According to preliminary information, the crime was committed for the profit motive," Volk added.
Kuindzhi is considered "one of the most memorable figures in Russian painting of the second half of the 19th century," according to the Tretyakov Gallery website. He was known for his innovative experimentation with light and color as well as his penchant for incorporating some of the latest scientific discoveries into his art, the website added.
The recovered landscape is estimated to be worth around $1 million, Russian state-media TASS reported, citing "a source in law enforcement."
The bold daytime theft has left Russian officials somewhat red in the face as this is the second embarrassing security lapse in less than a year.
Last May, an intoxicated 37-year-old entered the museum right before it was due to close and attacked one of Russia's most famous paintings with a pole, badly damaging the piece.
Vladislav Kononov, director of the museums department at the Russian Ministry of Culture, described Sunday's incident as "an extremely unpleasant situation."
"The number of watchers has been increased in the halls, additional fixation measures of the paintings have been taken. All paintings will be enhanced with electronic security sensors, as they must be," Kononov said.
Reuters reported that authorities are continuing their inquiries into potential accomplices in what they believe was the planned theft of an object of special cultural value, an offense that comes with a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
Tretyakov Gallery director Zelfira Tregulova told a press conference that initial inspections since the painting was recovered has not revealed any damage to the artwork, the Reuters report said.
"Currently, a team of specialists of Tretyakov gallery is conducting a research, using mobile equipment. We hope that by the end of the day the painting will be moved to Tretyakov Gallery depository," said Tregulova.
The gallery official added that the painting would not be returned to the exhibition of Kuindzhi's work, which is set to continue until mid-February.