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Russia returns stained glass windows to Germany

BERLIN, November 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has returned six fourteenth-century stained glass windows that were among objects seized by Soviet troops during WWII to a church in Germany.

In 2002, Russia returned 111 stained glass windows to St. Mary's Church, Marienkirche, in Frankfurt-upon-Oder. They had earlier been stored in the Hermitage museum in Russia's St. Petersburg. Authorities later discovered that Moscow's Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts had a further six panes from the church in their storehouse.

In April, Russia's Prime Minister and then-president, Vladimir Putin, signed a federal law to return the looted windows.

The ceremony to hand over the stained glass windows was attended by Russia's ambassador to Germany, Vladimir Kotenyev, and German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann on Monday.

"Now this church, which has been the symbol of the city since 1250, may again return to its former glory," Kotenyev said, adding that the move was another step forward in Russian-German relations.

Russia and Germany have pledged to return valuable works of art captured from each other during World War II. The process, however, has proceeded slowly, as many in Russia consider the artifacts compensation for the country's wartime losses, and both sides are anxious not to lose out in the exchanges.

During WWII, the Nazis looted works of art throughout Europe and the occupied parts of the then Soviet Union, secreting many of them into Nazi leaders' private collections. After the war, Soviet security bodies moved to return as many of them as possible, also confiscating other cultural objects as military trophies.

The actual volume of cultural objects looted by Germany and Russia is unknown, as many of them were destroyed or stolen by individual soldiers.

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