Law enforcement officers search Moscow's Garage art museum

The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow's Gorky Park. Photo: Aleksey Zotov / Alamy / Vida Press

The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow's Gorky Park. Photo: Aleksey Zotov / Alamy / Vida Press

Law enforcement officers in Moscow on Friday carried out searches at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, founded by oligarch Roman Abramovich, a source close to museum staff told Novaya Europe.

The searches took place at the museum’s archive building in Moscow’s Gorky Park and the constructivist Narkomfin building on the city’s Novinsky Boulevard, where Garage offers walking tours, Telegram channel Ostorozhni Novosti reported. Novaya Europe’s source said that the searches lasted around two hours.

No reasons were given for the searches, Ostorozhno Novosti said, but it cited Garage employees who said that officers may have been looking for “LGBT literature” in the museum’s archives.

Officers arrived at the museum complex in Gorky Park in unmarked cars with a list of senior managers they wanted to question, the channel said, with independent news outlet Mediazona quoting an employee who said that up to 20 officers had entered the museum’s office building and held staff on its third floor.

“They took everyone away pretty roughly and didn’t let [us] take our things”, Mediazona quoted its source as saying, adding that “people in plain clothes” had later come and questioned the 30-40 museum employees being held about individuals from the museum’s legal and marketing departments.

Russian business news outlet RBC cited a source close to law enforcement agencies who said that the searches were conducted by Russia’s Federal Security Service.

Mediazona said that Garage employees told it over the phone that they had no information on the searches and that the museum was “working as normal”, with its source saying it was “understandable” that museum management did not want to confirm the reports of searches.

Garage was founded by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and his then-wife, art collector Dasha Zhukova, in 2008. Shortly after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the museum said it would suspend its exhibition programme until “the human and political tragedy unfolding in Ukraine ends”.

Abramovich himself, who suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning while mediating peace talks between Russia and Ukraine in spring 2022, remains under UK, US and European Union sanctions due to his alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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