A new law took effect in Britain Monday protecting loaned artworks from being seized over legal claims, clearing the way for an exhibition of paintings from Russia. Russian authorities had threatened to scuttle the show "From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925," saying British law did not protect against artworks being seized in connection with lawsuits or court decisions. In a bid to salvage the highly anticipated exhibition, due to open Jan. 26, British Culture Secretary James Purnell announced earlier this month that he would quickly enact legislation barring seizure of artworks loaned by foreign countries to British museums and galleries. The law, which brings Britain into line with other European countries, had been due to take effect in February. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the legislation had come into force at 0001 GMT Monday. "Thousands of works of art are lent to exhibitions in the UK each year from foreign institutions, including Russia," Purnell said. "They provide both great enjoyment and promote cultural understanding between respective countries.