Suspected thief nabbed after painting is snatched off wall at packed Russian museum

A man was caught on camera lifting the painting from a museum wall and walking out with it as visitors stood nearby.

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

Police in Russia arrested a man suspected of walking into a Moscow museum full of visitors, casually taking a painting off the wall and walking out with it.

The 31-year-old man is believed to be the person spotted on surveillance video lifting a landscape work titled “Ai-Petri. Crimea" from an exhibit at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery on Sunday. He calmly walked away with it while onlookers apparently assumed he was an employee.

The painting was recovered undamaged from a construction site after the suspect told investigators he had hidden it there, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia. Although the man led police to the painting, he denied stealing it.

The suspect, who has a criminal record, was charged with theft of items of special value, according to the ministry of internal affairs.

“Ai-Petri. Crimea," a 1908 mountain landscape by Arkhip Kuindzhi, is valued at $185,000, according to The Associated Press.

A Russian police officer holds "The Ai-Petri, Crimea" painting after it was stolen from an art gallery in Moscow, Russia, on Jan. 28, 2019. The painting was found in a suspects home.Russian Internal Affairs Ministry

More than 120 of Kuindzhi's works are on display as part of a temporary exhibit at the Tretyakov Gallery, and the painting that went missing had not been secured with an alarm.

At the same museum last year, a man badly damaged Ilya Repin's "Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581" when he attacked the painting with a pole.