50,000 exhibits 'missing' from Russian museums

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A sweeping government audit has revealed that up to 50,000 pieces are missing from Russia's museums -- everything from Pre-Revolutionary medals and weapons to precious works of art -- a member of the survey team said Thursday.

Former Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the survey after his government was deeply embarrassed in 2006 by hundreds of thefts from the crown jewel of Russia's art world, St. Petersburg's Hermitage gallery.

Over 1,600 museums have been inspected since then, and most of them have items missing, Interior Ministry Col. Ilya Ryasnoi told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

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