Russia charges top director with fraud

Moscow: Russia detained and charged on Tuesday the theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov with fraud in a move that critics denounced as the latest sign of increasing censorship of the arts.
Serebrennikov, 47, is the artistic director of Moscow’s Gogol Centre theatre and has staged productions at the legendary Bolshoi Theatre. His films have been shown at the Cannes and Venice film festivals.
But in recent years Serebrennikov has fallen out of favour with the authorities and has criticised a government clampdown on artistic works, warning last year that “everything is returning to the most pathetic Soviet practices”.
The Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said in a statement he has been charged with defrauding the state of at least 68 million rubles ($1.15 million) in arts funding over three years from 2011 to 2014.
Serebrennikov has denied any fraud, insisting that the charges are “absurd” and that the money went into stage productions. A court will now decide whether or not to put him behind bars. A source told Interfax news agency that this was expected to happen on Wednesday.
Serebrennikov’s lawyer Dmitry Kharitonov told Kommersant FM radio that his detention was “a complete surprise,” adding his client had been shooting a film in Saint Petersburg.
Investigators had raided the director’s flat in Moscow as well as the Gogol Centre theatre in May, prompting protests from leading arts figures, including Vladimir Urin, director of the Bolshoi Theatre.
Police have already arrested three people in connection with the inquiry, two of whom are in custody and the other under house arrest.
The case concerns a theatrical project set up by Serebrennikov called Platform, which staged shows in Moscow. — AFP