On Sunday, an art thief strolled through the crowded Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and stole a painting valued at £760,000.
CCTV footage of the incident shows the 31-year-old man lifting the painting off the gallery wall and casually walking through crowds of visitors before leaving the gallery and disappearing onto the street. The alarm was raised by staff moments after he left the gallery. One eyewitness recounts how he had believed the thief to be “a museum employee.”
Forming part of an exhibition about Arkhip Kuindzhi, the painting depicts the Ai-Petri mountain peak in the peninsula of Crimea. Kuindzhi was a Russian artist of Greek origin who was born in 1842 in Mariupol, modern-day Ukraine. The painting was completed while Kuindzhi was living in Saint Petersburg between 1898 and 1908.
“Thank God, thanks to the energetic efforts of our law enforcement officers, the painting was found quickly and efficiently,” remarked Dmitry Peskov, president Vladimir Putin’s press-secretary.
Since his arrest, Mr Chuprikov has denied the charges against him. His denial can be viewed in a published police interrogation video. When asked for his whereabouts at the time of the theft, he said that he had no memory of the previous afternoon and that he categorically “doesn’t break the laws of the Russian Federation.”
Tretyakov Gallery are now taking precautions to further safeguard their exhibition, which will remain open as usual. Zelfira Tregulova, the director of the gallery, explained that “we have strengthened all the paintings so that it’s not possible to remove them. We have started to install individual alarm sensors to our paintings. We will install them on all of our expositions.”