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Russian art collection unscathed

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Moscow (dpa) - A billion-dollar collection of paintings that Swiss authorities impounded this month in a dramatic debt recovery action did not incur any harm, experts at Moscow's Pushkin museum said Tuesday after their return to Russia.

"Their condition has not altered, thank God," curator Tatyana Potapova said after examining 54 works that were briefly seized and placed in storage.

Swiss customs officers on November 4 confiscated an exhibited collection of paintings by Monet, van Gogh, Renoir and other Impressionists as part of a 15-year bid by the Swiss company Noga to recover millions of dollars it says Russia failed to pay for food delivered before the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Amid outraged responses in the Russian parliament, the government in Bern on November 5 overruled a confiscation warrant issued by a local court.

The seizure of the paintings escalated tensions over Switzerland's decision last month to extradite former Russian nuclear power minister to the United States on suspicion of corruption.

Russian diplomats accused Swiss authorities of harassment and said such incidents were "detrimental to Switzerland's image in Russia".

The Pushkin Art museum said earlier it might seek recompense for any damage to the paintings.

The action by Noga was the latest in a series of drastic steps to recover money from the Russian government.

The company temporarily secured the detention of the Sedov sailing ship in France in 2000 and warplanes displayed at the Paris Air Show in 2001.

Copyright 2005 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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