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Russian Court Sentences History Teacher For Hermitage Thefts

Nikolai Zavadsky in court on March 13 (ITAR-TASS) March 15, 2007 -- A St. Petersburg court has sentenced a history teacher to five years in prison for stealing dozens of works from the Hermitage Museum.

Nikolai Zavadsky pleaded guilty to stealing more than 200 silver and enamel artifacts worth an estimated $5 million.

Zavadsky said he sold the items to pawnshops and used the money to buy insulin for his diabetic wife, Larisa, who was a curator at the museum.

The Hermitage discovered the thefts when Zavadsky's wife died of a heart attack during an audit of the collection the couple was plundering.

"The fact that the valuables were stolen from the Hermitage by an organized group is proven beyond doubt by the consistency of the forms and methods used by the accomplices to carry out their criminal intentions: the identical nature of the objects of theft -- valuables in the custody of Zavadskaya -- and the method of selling them," Judge Anzhelika Morozova said in delivering the verdict today.

The court also ordered Zavadsky to pay the Hermitage 7.3 million rubles ($283,000) in damages.

(Reuters, AP, ITAR-TASS)

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