About 50,000 Museum Pieces Lost

A sweeping government audit has revealed that up to 50,000 pieces are missing from Russia's museums — everything from pre-Revolutionary medals and weapons to precious works of art, a member of the survey team said Thursday.

Former President Vladimir Putin ordered the survey after his government was deeply embarrassed in 2006 by hundreds of thefts from St. Petersburg's Hermitage museum.

More than 1,600 museums have been inspected since then, and most of them have items missing, Interior Ministry official Ilya Ryasnoi said.

The lost items were worth a total of "several million dollars," he said, adding that most of the disappeared inventory was pre-Revolutionary and Soviet-era medals, weapons and clothes.

Precious works of art were among the missing items, but separate investigations were being conducted for those, Ryasnoi said.