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Moscow Statue Honoring Cinematic 'Thief' Is Stolen

Police say Yevgeny Leonov's Moscow statue was stolen and sold to a scrap-metal dealer.
Police say Yevgeny Leonov's Moscow statue was stolen and sold to a scrap-metal dealer.

There is no honor among thieves.

Statue thieves included, it seems.

Police in Moscow say they have arrested a group of men who last week made off with a bronze sculpture dedicated to a beloved Soviet actor who famously played a character reluctantly posing as the head of a gang of thieves.

The life-sized statue, depicting actor Yevgeny Leonov as the character known as "the docent" in the 1972 Soviet comedy Gentlemen of Fortune, was carted away sometime late on October 16 from its base in Moscow's MosFilm district, named for the famous Russian film studios.

Surveillance-camera footage purporting to show the thieves taking the statue away has been posted on YouTube.

WATCH: Thieves Steal A Statue Of Yevgeny Leonov

Moscow city police spokesman Andrei Galiakberov was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying that, after police detained five men in connection with the heist, they discovered the statue had been sold to a scrap-metal dealer and cut up into pieces.

The thieves earned 40,000 rubles for the statue, about $640, police said.

Moscow-based Ekho Moskvy radio reported that two more people were detained on October 17, and that the scrap-metal dealer stood to lose his license for receiving stolen goods.

In Gentlemen of Fortune, Leonov plays a school teacher named Troshkin who is identical in appearance to a thief named nicknamed "the docent," or "the assistant professor." The docent and his gang have stolen a gold antique, and police ask Troshkin to go undercover into prison to find out from the docent's gang members where exactly the gold antique is stashed.

To do that, the polite and soft-spoken Troshkin must get all sorts of tattoos and learn to speak and gesticulate like a gang member.

The statue, which went up in 2001, showed Leonov as the portly docent flashing a gang sign and covered in tattoos, including one reading "Life's become happier" -- a wry twist on a famous quotation by Stalin.

The sculpture's creator told Russian media that he would build a new statue, even though there isn't unanimous regret about its demise among Russia's cultural elite.

Stanislav Govorukhin, a film director who is now a pro-Kremlin member of Russia's lower house of parliament, told Ekho Moskvy that "from all the tremendous films made by this great actor, the image that ended up being chosen for this statue was not the most fortunate one: a gang-sign-flashing moron."

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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