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    THE HAGUE, February 24, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Aleksander Dobrovolsky) -- At the end of May, an icon-stand from the Transfiguration monastery in Russia's Solovki island, the White Sea, will be on sale at Sotheby's in London. This icon-stand, owned by a resident of one of the former Soviet Baltic republics and kept in an Amsterdam depository, dates back to the 16th century.

    In a telephoned RIA Novosti interview, the icon-stand owner said he had taken the decision to put up the relic to auction following his abortive negotiations on its sale to representatives of Russian business.

    The value of the masterpiece is estimated at 1.7 million Euros.

    "It was my sincere desire to return this ancient Russian shrine to where it belongs, that is the Solovki monastery," said the icon-stand owner. "I've been to Solovki, know and appreciate Russian culture and therefore spent the last two years expecting the Russian government and business to raise relatively insignificant funds for the purchase of the icons." "But my contacts with Russian bureaucrats and business people have convinced me that for some reasons Moscow does not care much for its relic. It will therefore be fair if it will be bought through auction by people, who cherish the Russian past and wish to preserve it for posterity," he told the agency.

    He named May 24th as the date of the auction. Russian art connoisseurs will be able to attend this trading session on a par with other participants.

    The icon-stand contains seven boards, accounting for 22 icon stamps. Experts, dating it by approximately 1570, say it is in a good state.

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