MOSCOW, March 23. /TASS/. The latest corruption scandal at Russia’s Culture Ministry and the arrest of several high-ranking officials has drawn a response from presidential culture adviser Vladimir Tolstoy, great-grandson of Russian literature classic Leo Tolstoy. He described the affair as dramatic and deplorable and confessed that if he were in the position of the current culture minister, he would have tendered his resignation to assume part of the responsibility for the whole team.
"If I were the culture minister, I would’ve regarded myself responsible for the selected team. There are no clear benchmarks here, though. Decisions whether the minster should stay or go are made by the prime minister or the president. Personally I believe that there should be no place for corruption in culture. The inner world of the people who have dedicated themselves to culture should not allow them to pursue any selfish interests," Tolstoy told a news briefing.
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky has left Tolstoy’s remark unanswered.
"I haven’t seen it yet," Medinsky told TASS, when asked about Tolstoy’s opinion.
According to earlier reports, a request from Russia’s Security Service FSB resulted in the arrest of six suspects in a high-profile case, opened over the embezzlement of funds the Ministry of Culture was granted for restoring several cultural and historical sites. Deputy Culture Minister Grigory Pirumov is among the arrested. The investigators see him as the mastermind of the fraud scheme. The crime ring Pirumov reportedly created back in 2012 also included the chief of the Culture Ministry’s property management and investment policies department, Boris Mazo, chief of the Balt-Stroi building company Dmitry Sergeyev, the company’s manager Aleksandr Kochenov, director of the state unitary enterprise for restoration (Tsentrrestavratsiya) Oleg Ivanov, private businessman, adviser to the CJSC Linnit-Consult’s CEO, Nikita Kolesnikov, as well as other yet to be identified persons. The suspected accomplices are held responsible for concluding state contracts containing false data and overstated costs of services provided and work done.
For the time being the criminal case consists of one episode: embezzlement of no less than 50 million rubles of the 127 million rubles allocated for restoration work at the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow. The investigators do not rule out, though, the lists of fraud cases and accomplices may grow longer.
A court in Moscow remanded Pirumov in custody till May 10 on the suspicion of embezzlement of budget funds provided for restoration of cultural heritage sites. His lawyers protested the arrest.