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    COLLECTION OF FABERGE JEWELRY CAN RETURN TO RUSSIA THIS APRIL

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    MOSCOW, February 5, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - A spokesman for the "Connecting Epochs" Foundation, specially founded to help returning culturally significant historical values, officially confirmed Thursday that the Faberge jewelry collection, bought by Russian entrepreneur Viktor Vekselberg, can return to Russia this April.

    "We hope that the collection will return to Moscow by the Easter. This is our dream," official spokesman for the foundation Andrei Shtorkh told RIA Novosti. "We do not name the date, because many judicial issues have to be solved, and, as you may know, our bureaucracy is very serious." This year, we shall mark Easter on Sunday, April 11.

    As became known on Wednesday, Mr. Viktor Vekselberg, chief executive officer of the Tyumen oil company (Siberia), has bought the world's biggest private collection of Faberge jewelry from the Sotheby's Auction House.

    According to Mr. Shtorkh, the Foundation will look for a place for the collection exhibition in Russia. So far, he noted, "it is not clear where the first exhibition will take place, but some suggestions have already been made." "The Moscow Kremlin, the Hermitage Museum and even the Christ the Savior Cathedral expressed their desire to grant premise for the collection. The final decision, however, will be made only after consultations with experts," he said.

    After the first exhibition, "the Faberge Easter Eggs will set off for a tour of the country," Mr. Shtorkh said. At first the collection will go to Petersburg, he continued, then to Yekaterinburg (the Urals), then to a number of Russian regions which have not yet been chosen." "This is the country's treasure, it is returning to the country, and as many as possible people should see it," he underscored.

    Mr. Shtorkh said that the question is also being decided about the permanent place for the collection. "The place where it will be kept for life must meet a number of criteria: a status and authority, security, access to it by the public, and integrity (in order to protect it from being divided into small collections in different halls). Today our task is to receive the collection. If somebody believes that his proposal answers all the requirements of the Foundation, we are ready to consider it. Mr. Vekselberg does not have personal preferences," Mr.Shtorkh said.

    Answering the question whether Mr. Vekselberg intends to present his collection in the future to the museum where it will be permanently kept, Mr. Shtorkh said: "Theoretically, it can be supposed that the collection will remain the property of its owner." According to the well-informed sources of RIA Novosti, in the future the "Connecting Epochs" Foundation may become open, and other Russian patrons of art will be attracted to its activity. The Foundation's experts will look for Russian cultural and historical values and return them home, the sources said.

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