Russia Launches Criminal Investigation Into Culture Ministry Over Embezzlement of Public Funds

Senior officials' homes and offices have been searched.

Russia's deputy culture minister Grigory Pirumov. Image: Courtesy of Pskov.ru
Russia's deputy culture minister Grigory Pirumov. Image: Courtesy of Pskov.ru

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has embarked on a criminal investigation involving a number of senior culture ministry officials suspected of embezzling state funds intended for restoration of cultural heritage sites, according to reports in Russian news service TASS, as well as in the Art Newspaper.

A brief statement on the press page of the Federal Security service, which also offered an English translations, reads:

Federal Security Service initiated a criminal case against some leading workers of the Russian Federation Ministry of Culture and a number of businessmen, suspected of embezzlement of public funds allocated for the restoration works on the objects of cultural heritage. By place of residence and work of these individuals carry out a search.

TASS identified three officials who have been detained, including deputy culture minister Grigory Pirumov; Boris Mazo, director of the ministry’s department of property management and investment policy; and the head of a state unitary enterprise for restoration works supervised by the ministry, Oleg Ivanov.

The Novodevichy Convent in Moscow. Image: Courtesy of whc.unesco.org

The Novodevichy Convent in Moscow.
Image: Courtesy of whc.unesco.org

A culture ministry source told TASS the criminal case is connected to a number of cultural heritage facilities including the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow.

Investigators are also reportedly looking into the Ivanovsky Convent in Moscow; a theater in Pskov, in northwest Russia; and the Izborsk fortress, near Pskov.

Searches carried out at Pskov region’s administration offices are linked to “possible violations during restoration works at the culture ministry’s facilities.”

Isbork Fortress in Pskov.<br>Photo: Mike Ovchinnikov via Flickr.

Isbork Fortress in Pskov.
Photo: Mike Ovchinnikov via Flickr.

Russian culture minister Vladmir Medinsky is reportedly in contact with FSB and the ministry is said to be creating its own internal checks in conjunction with the criminal case.

TASS notes a source close to the investigation who said Pirumov has been detained specifically over restoration works at the Novodevichy Convent, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. A $11.2 million restoration project, slated to run through 2019, began there last year.

artnet News reached out to the FSB for additional comment but had not heard back by publication time.


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