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Russia’s Culture Ministry officials held on suspicion of embezzlement

One of the detained officials is Deputy Culture Minister Grigory Pirumov

MOSCOW, March 15. /TASS/. Russia’s Federal Security Service said on Tuesday it has launched a criminal investigation against several senior officials of the culture ministry and entrepreneurs suspected of embezzling state funds.

The funds were allocated "for carrying out restoration works at the cultural heritage facilities," the FSB said in a statement, adding that searches at homes and offices of the persons were underway.

The detained officials are Deputy Culture Minister Grigory Pirumov, the director of the ministry’s department of property management and investment policy Boris Mazo and also the head of a state unitary enterprise for restoration works supervised by the ministry, Oleg Ivanov, sources told TASS.

A source at the culture ministry said the criminal case is linked to a whole number of cultural heritage facilities, including the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow.

Investigators are also interested in restoration works carried out at the Ivanovsky Convent in Moscow, a theater in Pskov, northwest Russia, and the Izborsk fortress near Pskov, the source added.

The searches were also conducted at the administration of the Pskov region and are linked to possible violations during restoration works at the culture ministry’s facilities in the region, the press service of the local administration said.

Russia’s Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky is in contact with the FSB on the issue. The ministry said it has launched its own internal checks in connection with the criminal case.

The ministry stressed that in recent years the restoration area led by Deputy Minister Grigory Pirumov has "achieved significant success."

A source close to investigation confirmed to TASS that Pirumov has been detained over restoration works at the Novodevichy Convent, a UNESCO world heritage site and burial place of many famous figures.

Restoration works there began last year and were expected to be completed in 2019. Media reports said 800 million rubles ($11.2 million at current exchange) rate) were allocated for this aim.

Pirumov, who was appointed to the post of deputy culture minister in March 2013, coordinates and controls work of three departments of the ministry: department of property and investment policy, state protection of cultural heritage and the legal department. He also oversees activity of a state agency for managing and using monuments of history and culture.