Russians "close down restitution commission"

Internal conflicts hamstrung the effort to return war loot to Germany

The joint Russian/German commission set up on 10 February this year to investigate the restitution of art treasures missing since World War II (The Art Newspaper, No. 27, April 1993, p.1) is being closed down. So says the Russian Minister of Culture Yevgeny Sidorov in an interview published in Moscow News. According to the Minister he cannot maintain useful dialogue so long as access to pertinent facts remains limited by the State. By this he seems to mean, not so much the security services, who have handed over documents on a number of matters, but the State bureaucracy. He says, "I know that the items concerned are located in a special store, but what we need is a decree to confirm officially that, for example, the Koenigs Collection is in Russia". The root of the problem is that the war booty is legally vested in the Supreme Soviet of Russia, which is within Khasbulatov's power circle, while the Commission is a creation of his political enemy, Boris Yeltsin. Sidorov is considered by many to be tending towards Khasbulatov's side.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 30 July 1993