updated 8/20/2007 2:40:32 AM ET 2007-08-20T06:40:32

Thanks to soaring demand for luxury cars in Russia, Bentleys are much more common on the streets of Moscow — and a tempting target for thieves.

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At least seven of the luxury cars have been stolen in the Russian capital this year, including two in the past week. Only one is known to have been recovered.

City police said Sunday that the most recent theft was reported Friday by a woman in her mid-20s, who said her sky-blue Bentley Continental was taken overnight from a parking space near her apartment building in central Moscow. She valued the car at $340,000, police said.

Also in the past week, police said a Bentley Continental was stolen from Olympic gold medalist Vladimir Zhmudsky, who played on the winning water polo team at the 1972 Summer Games.

In 2003, Bentley opened its first showroom in Moscow and sold 40 cars that year. There are now more than 1,300 in the city, the traffic police said.

The market for imported luxury cars in Russia has soared along with the country’s oil-fed economy, even though prices are considerably higher than in Europe because of steep customs duties.

As an increasing number of Russians have been able to afford a Mercedes — once the ultimate status symbol — the super rich have been turning to more exclusive makes. Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati also have been making strong inroads on the Russian market.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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