Russia halts London art display

Russian authorities have halted a major London exhibition of French and Russian art over claims Britain has failed to guarantee the paintings' return.

Russia's culture agency said the show could not go ahead unless the British government took further steps to ensure legal protection for the paintings.

British Culture Secretary James Purnell told BBC Radio 4 he would push through legislation offering better guarantees.

The exhibition had been due to open at the Royal Academy of Arts in January.

Some of the art of the From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings exhibition had been taken from private collections after the 1917 revolution.

It is thought some of the 120 works of art - which include paintings by Matisse and Van Gogh and other renowned Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works - could be seized to settle private legal claims related to the paintings.

Purnell said he had assured Russia in a letter earlier this month that the artworks were protected under the State Immunity Act of 1978.

But Russia's Federal Culture and Cinematography Agency, Roskultura, said it had not received adequate legal guarantees.

Roskultura spokeswoman Natalya Uvarova said: "We have not received a state guarantee from the United Kingdom.

"We have only a guarantee from the culture ministry, which is not enough for the exhibition at such a level. This is the usual practice."

As a result, Mr Purnell said he would bring forward the implementation of the Tribunal Courts and Enforcement Bill 2007, part of which contains the assurances the Russians are seeking.

"Their letter says that that's what they require and that's what we will be doing because we attach such importance to cultural relations as a way of furthering relations between our countries," he told the BBC's World At One programme.

"Because this is such an important exhibition we are prepared to go the extra mile," he added.

The bill, which was passed earlier this year, will be put through parliament when MPs return on 7 January.

Russian officials have yet to respond to the announcement.

The exhibition, which includes works from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and Moscow's Pushkin Fine Arts Museum, is currently in Dusseldorf, Germany.

The cancellation comes at a time when relations between Russia and the UK are particularly strained.

"Both the Russian and the British governments deny that this is part of the bigger political disagreement between them," said BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall, "but it's hard not to see it in this context when the list of disputed areas between the two sides is so great."

Relations between the two have worsened since former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London last year.

In July, Britain expelled four Russian diplomats over Moscow's refusal to extradite a key suspect in the murder.

Russia followed by expelling four British diplomats and, last week, ordered the British Council to close down its two offices outside Moscow by the beginning of January.

The Russian foreign ministry said the council, which promotes British culture abroad, was operating illegally. The British Prime Minister's office denied the claims.

The director of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Mikhail Piotrovsky, told the BBC politics and culture should not be mixed.

"Remember that Russia and Britain regularly have these flashpoints which come and go," he said.

"Culture should function independently and we have never suffered such a connection.

"We have many projects with Britain. Political relationships change but I sincerely hope that nobody will use this for a fleeting political gesture," he added.

Georgia looking for contractor for terminal extension at Kutaisi International Airport
Georgia looking for contractor for terminal extension at Kutaisi International Airport
Azerbaijan prepares projects to restore road infrastructure in liberated territories
Azerbaijan prepares projects to restore road infrastructure in liberated territories
Cable TV operators ready for full deployment in liberated Azerbaijani territories
Cable TV operators ready for full deployment in liberated Azerbaijani territories
Loading Bars
Latest
Turkey reports over 29,000 new coronavirus cases
813 more coronavirus cases recorded in Kazakhstan over 24 hours
Kazakhstan increases export to Greece despite COVID-19
World Bank to help Ukraine purchase COVID-19 vaccines
Sweden to reach COVID-19 peak in two weeks: forecast
Imports of fuels and lubricants up to Georgia
Trump says will leave White House if Electoral College votes for Biden
Moscow documents 77 deaths from COVID-19 in past 24 hours
WHO urges African states to strengthen readiness for COVID-19 vaccine
UK records another 17,555 coronavirus cases with 498 cases
China calls for healthy, stable military ties with U.S.
Italy reports 29,003 new coronavirus cases, 822 deaths - health ministry
Russia's Sputnik V developers call on AstraZeneca to try combining vaccines
Paris does not recognize so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic" - Foreign Ministry
Recovery of oil prices has positive impact on Kazakhstan’s external balances - IHS Markit
Group of German medical experts arrives in Kyrgyzstan to fight COVID-19
Georgian NCDC Head urges people over 70 to stay at home except in necessary circumstances
Iran, Russia to cooperate on COVID-19 vaccine development
Bitcoin price down 12.7%
Armenian eco-terror in Karabakh constitute serious threat to peace and security in region - opinion
Hungary, Poland double down to try to eject rule-of-law condition from EU budget
Over 3,500 coronavirus-related deaths recorded in Moscow in October
Belavia resumes regular flights from Baku to Minsk in early December
Iran hopes Kish-Istanbul-Abadan flights to improve its trade
Kazakhstan Railways opens tender to buy welding equipment
Georgia to support businesses amid new coronavirus restrictions
WB extends deadline for implementation of agricultural project in Azerbaijan
Turkey steps up inspections as coronavirus pandemic figures climb
Cavushoglu and Stoltenberg discuss situation in Karabakh
Swedish royals test positive for COVID-19
England reveals new regional COVID tiers in fight against coronavirus
Azerbaijani gymnasts reach finals of 36th European Championship in Ukraine
Georgia continues to support its citizens amid COVID-19 pandemic
News on return of Azerbaijani soldier captured by Armenians false, relative says
Azerbaijan sends note of protest to France
Ample opportunities for investments to be created in Karabakh – minister
Azerbaijani's negotiations with UAE on renewables nearing completion
Kazakhstan, Mongolia eye signing roadmap for trade, economic co-op
Russia bans import of tomatoes from Uzbekistan’s Fergana region
36th COMCEC session opens under chairmanship of Turkish president (PHOTO)
Uzbek Ministry of Finance publishes draft law on increasing taxes on gasoline, diesel
Russian Gazprombank predicts Azerbaijan's economic recovery in 2021
iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini now at Azercell Exclusive shops!
Iran becomes self-sufficient in building oil, gas platforms
Cotton growing in Azerbaijan hits record - agriculture ministry
Italian municipalities adopt documents expressing solidarity with Azerbaijani people
Uzbekistan to grow industrial cannabis in Sardoba district
Azerbaijan detects 3,705 new COVID-19 cases, 1,609 recoveries
Turkmen Ministry of Construction opens tender for equestrian sports complex construction
Azerbaijani, Saudi FMs exchange views on current situation in Karabakh
Uzbekistan reveals data on its ICT sphere enterprises and organizations
Azerbaijan to export persimmons to Slovakia and Czech Republic
Level of religious tolerance in Azerbaijan is much higher than in France - ISESCO ex-director
Kazakhstan's exports to Switzerland decrease year-on-year
Azerbaijani medical insurance agency signs contract with tender-winning IT company
Resolution adopted by French Senate must be canceled – Azerbaijani NGO head
Volume of Turkish textile clothing supplies to Kazakh market surges
Latvian AirBaltic cancels Riga-Tbilisi-Riga flights
Reconnaissance work completed within Baiterek space complex creation in Kazakhstan
Thermal power plant modernization, other projects underway in Kazakhstan's Karaganda
Georgia imposes further restrictions to curb spread of coronavirus
Georgian carrier to launch regular cargo flights from China to Europe
Russia's Rostelecom expects to develop transit routes through Turkmenistan
Average monthly salary in Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan rises
Azerbaijani, Afghan FMs discuss latest situation in region
WB, AIIB to fund rural infrastructure development in Uzbekistan
Azerbaijani, Indonesian FMs stress importance of trilateral ceasefire statement
Austria fully supports Uzbekistan obtaining of EU’s GSP beneficiary status
Turkmenistan's Dashoguz region opens tender for installation work
France not part of Karabakh settlement, but part of problem - Turkish defense minister
Japanese companies to provide technical support for terry production in Uzbekistan
Germany's hotspot district to launch COVID-19 mass tests for children
Yield of citrus fruits in Azerbaijan up
Capital of Kazakh companies operating in Turkey revealed
Iran boosts its pistachio exports
World Economic Forum announces Azerbaijan's road quality score
Share of assets in Azerbaijani banking sector declines
Kazakhstan eyeing amending legislation to support renewable energy dev't
Georgian Hualing Free Industrial Zone plans to finalize deal with 4 new companies
Mortgage lending in Azerbaijan through state line grows manifold
Kazakhstan to launch hundreds of industrial projects before year-end
Azerbaijani ICT company wins tender on purchase of licenses
Central Bank of Azerbaijan discloses data from foreign exchange auction
Employment in Iran's West Azerbaijan Province increases
Buta Airways to Increase the Frequency of Flights Performed to Izmir
Azerbaijan, Hungary discuss possibilities of attracting investors to liberated territories
Georgian Huliang FIZ offering available land plots to potential investors
Azerbaijani NBCO talks about its activities amid coronavirus
Azerbaijan’s carpet producer signs tender contract
Many members of French Senate unaware war in Karabakh ended (VIDEO)
Number of people infected with coronavirus pandemic in Iran exceeds 900,000
Baku Stock Exchange admits local investment company
Uzbekistan eyes to set up local production of various vaccines
France does not deserve Azerbaijan’s confidence – senator
Bahar Azadi gold coin price still falling in Iran
Bank mortgages in Azerbaijan rise
Full text of Azerbaijani parliament’s statement against French Senate’s resolution
Iran's economy remains strong and steady – Iran's president
Turkmenistan to be vital strategic partner, gas supplier to China long-term - Wood Mackenzie
EDB talks Kazakhstan's economy growth forecast, return to pre-COVID levels
All news