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Russian museum to open €5m branch in Spain

Gold icons and expressionist paintings from one of Russia's top art museums will go on permanent show in an old tobacco factory in the Spanish city of Malaga, officials said on Wednesday.

Russian museum to open €5m branch in Spain
Works of the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky will be among those on permanent display at the Malaga branch of the State Russian Museum. Photo: Carl Court/AFP

The southern Spanish city of Malaga, home to thousands of Russian expats, has signed an agreement to host the first overseas branch of Saint Petersburg's State Russian Museum.

"Works displayed in Malaga will range from Byzantine-inspired icons to social realism of the Soviet era," Malaga city hall said in a statement.

The new museum is scheduled to open in early 2015.

The State Russian Museum — not to be confused with Saint Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum — will send about 100 works on permanent loan, including paintings by Kandinsky and Chagall.

It will also send about 60 works each year for temporary exhibitions under a 10-year preliminary agreement.

They will go on show in 2,300 square metres (2,750 square yards) of exhibition space in La Tabacalera, a 1920s tobacco factory that already houses an automobile museum.

A Malaga city hall official told news agency AFP on Wednesday it was too soon to say how much the new museum would cost.

A major tourist sunspot with half a million inhabitants on Spain's Costa del Sol, Malaga has spent millions on developing its cultural scene over the past decade.

It was the painter Pablo Picasso's native city and since 2003 has housed a major museum devoted to his work.

In November, Malaga city hall said France's Pompidou Centre, home to one of the world's top collections of modern art, had agreed to open a branch there in 2015.

The city said at the time it would spend €5 million euros ($6.8 million) to renovate a venue for a permanent display of 70 works from the Pompidou.

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RUSSIA

Spanish court probes Russian tycoon’s purchase of supermarket chain Dia

Spain's top criminal court said Thursday it has opened an investigation into whether Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman artificially depressed the share price of supermarket chain Dia before buying the firm.

Spanish court probes Russian tycoon's purchase of supermarket chain Dia
File photo of a Dia supermarket. Photo: AFP

The Kremlin-friendly oligarch appeared in court in Madrid on Monday as part of a separate similar case in which judges are investigating allegations he acted to bring down the value of another Spanish takeover target, digital entertainment firm Zed Worldwide.   

He denied all charges in that case in a statement released after he was questioned in court.

An investigating judge with the National Court “has begun investigating a complaint” against Fridman and his Luxembourg-based investment company LetterOne “in connection with its acquisition of Dia”, according to a document from the court published Thursday.   

In May, LetterOne secured majority control of the struggling supermarket chain via a hostile takeover following a bitter dispute with its previous management as the firm's share price slumped.

The judge is investigating allegations made in an anonymous complaint that LetterOne “maintained a heightened financial tension to lower the share price, until it managed to buy the company,” the court document said.

Spain's Supreme Court had in September given the National Court a mandate to investigate this case which it said could constitute the crime of “market manipulation” and could have had “serious repercussions on… the national economy” given the size of Dia's supermarket network in the country, the document added.

It cited a police report alleging that Fridman acted in a “coordinated and concerted way” through a network of “criminal associates… to create a situation of conflict… and lack of liquidity in the short term” so as to lower Dia's price and buy the firm.   

In a statement, LetterOne called these allegations “totally false and defamatory”.

“The reality is Dia suffered from mismanagement and accounting irregularities were discovered, which negatively affected all shareholders, including LetterOne,” it added.

LetterOne said it was “committed” to investing 1.6 billion euros to protect jobs, suppliers and keep stores open.

Through LetterOne, Fridman also controls interests in telecoms, banking, oil and healthcare.   

The tycoon, who is reportedly close to the Kremlin and was listed by Forbes this year as London's richest resident, is also one of the founders of Alfa Bank, Russia's largest privately-held lender.

READ MORE: From Russia with love: Tycoon buys out ailing Spanish supermarket

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