Ukraine government's office art swapped for fakes

KIEV Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:56pm EDT

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KIEV (Reuters) - Two valuable paintings in the offices of the Ukrainian government have been mysteriously swapped for replicas, the former Soviet republic's Culture Ministry said on Wednesday.

The landscape paintings by 20th century Ukrainian artist Mykola Hlushchenko have been on display in the government building since August 2001.

"Chemical tests have shown that both paintings are replicas of Hlushchenko's works," the ministry said in a statement.

Insurers have valued the paintings at about $144,000 combined.

The ministry said the replicas appeared to be 5-10 years old. Ukraine has had five prime ministers since August 2001, two of whom - current president Viktor Yanukovich and his rival Yulia Tymoshenko - have held the post twice.

(Reporting by Natalya Zinets; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov, editing by Paul Casciato)

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