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Theft, damage of paintings: Case against Yuristanbek Shygaev dismissed

Criminal case against the ex-director of the Gapar Aitiev Museum of Fine Arts Yuristanbek Shygaev was dismissed. This decision was made by the Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek.

According to investigation, Yuristanbek Shygaev, being director of the museum, abused his official position.

In December 2013, without a written order from the Ministry of Culture and coordination with the chief curator, the accused instructed the former deputy director of the museum to remove two paintings from the permanent exhibition of Russian painting in order to create their copies by scanning.

These were the paintings by Nikolai Sverchkov «Horse and Dog» and «Portrait of Bakunin» by Nikolai Ge.

«In violation of the law, without observing the procedures, without taking appropriate measures for storage of museum items, Yuristanbek Shygaev damaged the originals of the paintings during their scanning. The painted layers of the paintings were damaged down to the canvas. In early January 2014, after the theft of Ivan Aivazovsky’s work «Seascape in Crimea», a check was scheduled at the museum to identify the authenticity of the available paintings. Yuristanbek Shygaev, in order to avoid adverse consequences, restored the painting «Portrait of Bakunin», and the painting «Horse and Dog» remained damaged,» the document says.

The court’s decision states that in order to determine the damage caused, the Ministry of Culture sent a request to the St. Petersburg Institute of Painting. The cost of damage to property was 672,000 soms.

Yuristanbek Shygaev compensated for the damage caused. He transferred 672,000 soms to the account of the State Committee for National Security. In this regard, the lawyer petitioned to dismiss the case. The state prosecution supported the lawyer’s petition. Judge Saltanat Esenkulova ruled in favor of the accused. The case was dismissed with the wording «due to the expiration of the statute of limitations».

Several paintings disappeared from the Museum of Fine Arts under Shygaev. It became known that the former director took two originals of the late 19th century, donated in Soviet times by the Tretyakov Gallery and the Pushkin Museum.

The canvases — one by Nikolai Sverchkov’s «Horse and Dog», the other — the portrait of Bakunin — have no price and are the property of the nation and state property. Shygaev damaged them while scanning.

After that, a commission was created to check all the exhibits of the museum, which revealed the fact of substitution of two museum originals with specially made copies. These are the works by Andrei Mylnikov «Dream» and Evsey Moiseenko «Olga».