Painting stolen from Moscow gallery as witnesses watch

A screen grab taken from video footage shows a man walking with a painting by prominent artist Arkhip Kuindzhi at Tretyakov art gallery in Moscow, Russia, on January 28, 2019. Police later found the painting there.

Confused onlookers watched as a young man removed the painting from the gallery wall, only realizing later that they had witnessed a brazen theft, Russian television network RT reported.

The Russian interior ministry said a 31-year-old man was detained Monday in a village outside Moscow.

Back in December 2018, police had taken this individual into custody for drug possession. The TASS news agency cited a police interview in which he denied committing any crime.

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The man then strolls out of the gallery with the painting in his left hand. His 1881 work "Birch grove" was sold at auction house Sotheby's for over $3 million in 2008.

"At the time of the theft, the museum's security - carried out by forces of the National Guard and the museum's security service - was working normally", the gallery said.

A man who snatched a 19th-century painting off the wall in a busy Moscow museum and calmly walked out has been arrested, authorities said Monday. In May, a drunken man vandalized a famous 19th-century painting of Ivan the bad by stabbing at it with a metal pole.

Russia's Culture Minister said after Kuindzhi's painting was recovered that it would push for all temporarily exhibitions at state-owned museums to be equipped with motion detectors.

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