Sweden to Return Stolen Russian Ship Paintings

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) — The owner of a set of 18th century paintings of Russian ships has decided to withdraw them from an auction to be held in Sweden and return them to Russia, a Russian cultural official said on Tuesday.

Five watercolor paintings of Russian sailing ships, stolen from a museum in St Petersburg in 1992, had been due to be auctioned next week by Stockholms Auktionsverk at a Russian sale in the Swedish capital.

Anatoly Vilkov, deputy head of the cultural watchdog agency, Rosokhrankultura, said his agency had demanded that the paintings be withdrawn from the auction.

"An agreement has now been reached with the owner of the paintings," he said. "When he learned that the paintings had been stolen from Russia, he made the decision to waive his rights to them and hand them over."

The Russian official said the owner had bought the paintings in good faith from a private dealer and was not aware that they had been stolen.