Russian Federation detains theater director Kirill Serebennikov over alleged fraud

22 August, 2017, 22:38 | Author: Laverne Higgins
  • 27 2017 Kirill Serebrennikov one of Russia's most venerated theatre and film directors leads a rehearsal in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow Russia. Damir Yusupov  AP

A controversial Russian director known for his criticism of the state has been arrested and charged with embezzling £880,000, sparking outrage among numerous country's leading political and cultural figures.

According to investigators, unidentified persons from management of the Seventh Studio, a stage company created by Serebrennikov on the basis of his acting and directing course in the Moscow Art Theatre School, embezzled 200 million rubles (about $3.5 million) allocated by the government for development and popularization of art in Russian Federation from 2011 to 2014.

Mr Serebrennikov, 47, is the artistic director of Moscow's Gogol Centre theatre and has staged productions at the legendary Bolshoi Theatre.

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Serebrennikov, an award-winning director whose father was Jewish, has used his work to criticize the authorities in the past, lashing out at what he sees as the pernicious growing role of the state and church in Russian society.

Earlier this month, an accountant at the Gogol Centre, Nina Maslyayeva, was brought on trial who testified against the theatre's director, claiming that Serebrennikov along with Malabrodksy and Yuri Itin, set up a scheme to fraudulently syphon off government funds.

His detention shocked his supporters and the arts world.

"The director's detention is clearly excessive", Alexei Kudrin, a former finance minister known for his liberal views, said on Twitter.

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At the Bolshoi, Serebrennikov has staged the Rimsky-Korsakov opera "The Golden Cockerel" and a ballet based on Mikhail Lermontov's novel "A Hero of our Time", which won a prestigious Golden Mask award previous year.

Investigators had previously confiscated his passport, preventing him from travelling overseas.

- In a blow to Russia's contemporary arts scene, investigators on Tuesday detained one of the country's most prominent directors and are pressing embezzlement charges against him.

Mr Serebrennikov's lawyer Dmitry Kharitonov told Kommersant FM radio that an investigator told him of the detention that morning and it was "a complete surprise".

Police have already arrested three people in connection with the inquiry, two of whom are in custody and the other under house arrest.

But Vladimir Urin, the theatre's director general, said it had been pulled because rehearsals had shown it was not ready.

The Bolshoi denied reports that the show about dancer Rudolf Nureyev had been scrapped because of its frank description of his gay relationships - which is taboo under a strict Russian law banning gay propaganda.

Within the next 48 hours a court is expected to rule whether Serebrennikov should remain in custody or not.

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