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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Usmanov Gives Art to St. Pete Palace

APBillionaire Alisher Usmanov, right, speaking with Kremlin property chief Vladimir Kozhin at a news conference Monday.
Billionaire Alisher Usmanov on Monday donated the renowned Rostropovich art collection to a St. Petersburg presidential residence renovated on the orders of President Vladimir Putin.

Usmanov, worth an estimated $5.5 billion and a major shareholder in London football club Arsenal, said he had not discussed the purchase or donation of the collection of the late cellist Mstislav Rostropovich with Putin beforehand.

In recent years, many of the country's oligarchs have made charitable donations to Kremlin-backed projects.

Announcing the bequest of 450 pieces of pre-revolutionary art, including paintings, porcelain figures, plates, vases, ivory and glass, Usmanov said they would go on public view in the Konstantinovsky Palace.

The palace, on the Baltic coast outside St. Petersburg, was built on the orders of Peter the Great in the early 1700s and underwent restoration work from 2001 to repair extensive damage dating back to World War II.

In the past few years, the palace has hosted major events, such as a Group of Eight summit in 2006.

"I've never spoken to him about this," said Usmanov, when asked at a news conference whether he had discussed the donation with Putin.

Usmanov also declined to state exactly how much he had paid for the collection, which he purchased as a single lot from Sotheby's in London after it was put up for sale by Rostropovich's widow, Galina Vishnevskaya.

The auction house said Usmanov, who made his fortune in metals and mining, had paid "substantially higher" than the $40 million initial asking price.

Vladimir Kozhin, head of the Presidential Property Department, praised the decision to donate the collection intact to the Konstantinovsky rather than split it among museums.

"It is the second center of public life in Russia after the Kremlin," he said.