The man who walked into the Tretyakov Gallery on January 27 and stole a century-old painting by Arkhip Kuindzhi is now in police custody, according to Russian law enforcement. Officers say they’ve also recovered the undamaged “Ai-Petri: Crimea” landscape painting, which the thief reportedly tried to hide at a construction site in the Moscow region’s Odintsovo district. Police say the suspect is 31 years old, and the Telegram channel Readovka posted a photograph of his arrest.
The man later told reporters that he denies stealing the painting, though he could not recall his whereabouts when the theft took place. “I don't remember well. I need to refresh my memory,” he said, according to the news agency Interfax.
The same man is also a suspect in a separate illegal drug possession case and had been released on his own recognizance. Officials are currently evaluating his competency to stand trial and investigating whether anyone else was involved in the painting heist.
On Sunday evening, the suspect walked up to Kuindzhi’s little-known landscape painting of Ai-Petri (a peak in the Crimean Mountains), pulled it from the wall, removed it from the frame, and walked out of the museum without being stopped — all in front of witnesses.