Corruption scandal tears apart Moscow’s largest museum

The deputy director of the Tretyakov Gallery has been arrested on charges of embezzlement.

Police investigators suspect Oleg Belikov and his accomplices of fraudulently acquiring around 34 million rubles (around $1 millon). This money had reportedly been allocated to the building and repair of living quarters.

Belikov was appointed as deputy director of the famous gallery in October 2009, at the age of 32. The museum’s director Irina Lebedeva says she employed him on the basis of excellent recommendations. She would not specify from whom she had received them.

The scandal was sparked by an anonymous letter sent to the country’s Ministry of Culture in March 2011.

Allegedly composed by a group of 47 Tretyakov employees, it has been published all over the internet accusing the museum’s director, Irina Lebedeva, of breeding corruption, appointing her friends and relatives to important posts, creating a tense working atmosphere and illegally using the museum’s property.

The letter also alleges that Lebedeva has sold masterpieces from the gallery to foreign collectors.

The group of anonymous “staff members” called their boss “incompetent” and pointed out that throughout the years of working in the gallery, Lebedeva has not managed to defend a thesis and obtain a degree in art.

The gallery’s staff then said that the letter is outrageous and disgusting.

“That anonymous letter is a collection of random facts presented out of context,” the employees said. “It comprises a range of highly biased assessments, as well as a set of factual and even grammar mistakes. This is an indicator of the low culture and meanness of its authors.”

The boss herself believes that the reason behind such a campaign might be a conflict of generations. She believes that it was supporters of her predecessor who signed the first letter.

“The staff might have been offended by the fact that I don’t consider my predecessor a teacher,” Lebedeva explained. “Those 70-year-old members of staff, naturally, support the old boss. All changes irritate them. But I believe this signals that we are moving in the right direction.”

Back in March, the Minister of Culture supported Lebedeva, saying that the last inspection did not reveal any violations in the running of the gallery.

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