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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Germany Must Pay for Trophy Art, Sokolov Says

Russia wants compensation to send a collection of trophy art back to Germany, Culture and Press Minister Alexander Sokolov told the State Duma on Wednesday.

Brought from Germany soon after the end of World War II by Soviet Army Captain Viktor Baldin, the valuable collection -- 362 drawings by masters such as Titian, Rembrandt, Delacroix and Van Gogh -- ended up at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Russian and German officials have for years been discussing the conditions that would lead to the collection's return to Germany, and Sokolov said Russia was insisting on compensation for restoring and maintaining the artwork.

"No one will give back this collection for nothing," he said in response to a question from a deputy about the progress of Russian-German talks.

Moscow sees this and other art taken from Germany as restitution for the loss of millions of lives and the destruction of entire cities during the war.

Boris Boyarskov, head of the Federal Service for Media Law Compliance and Cultural Heritage, said at the Duma that Russia had so far compiled a list of 36,000 pieces of Russian art lost in the war.

The Duma invited Sokolov, Boyarskov and Mikhail Shvydkoi, head of the Federal Culture and Cinematography Agency, to speak about historical and cultural issues at Wednesday's session. Obsessed with strict adherence to its schedule, the Duma, however, gave the officials only five to 15 minutes to deliver their speeches, and technicians cut off microphones and speakers after their time elapsed.

Sokolov lamented lack of government spending on preservation efforts, saying 10 percent of historical buildings were in ruins and 30 percent more needed urgent attention.

The country has about 88,000 historical and cultural landmarks, including old Orthodox churches and the Kremlin, Shvydkoi said. About 26,000 of them are on a federal list, while the others are on regional lists, he said.

The federal budget earmarked 2.2 billion rubles ($85 million) to preserve them this year, which is only 5 percent of what they require, Shvydkoi said.

In other comments, Boyarskov said his agency and prosecutors work to prevent regional officials from removing Soviet-era monuments, often statues of Lenin and other Soviet leaders.

Sokolov, responding to a question why "showmen, bandits, prostitutes and politicians" dominate television airtime, agreed that stations still broadcast much "dirt." He called for federal funds and guidelines to create alternative programs, but said direct bans should be avoided.