Top Russian director accused of fraud put under house arrest

Acclaimed Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov was put under house arrest Wednesday after being charged with fraud in a case that has sent shockwaves through the arts community.

The director had already denounced the charges against him as “absurd” after investigators detained him in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday and drove him to the Investigative Committee offices in Moscow. He was then held in jail ahead of the hearing.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Basmanny district court in Moscow to support Serebrennikov, 47, who heads the Gogol Centre theatre and has staged works at the legendary Bolshoi.

Judge Yelena Lenskaya ruled to confine the director to house arrest until October 19, an AFP correspondent reported from the courtroom as people cried “Shame!” and whistled in protest.

“He is accused of a serious crime,” a representative of the Investigative Committee said in court earlier, arguing Serebrennikov could flee or put pressure on case witnesses. “He can hide from the investigation. He has real estate abroad.”

The Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, accuses Serebrennikov of defrauding the state of at least 68 million rubles ($1.15 million, 977,000 euros) in arts funding from 2011 to 2014 on a side project called Platform.

Standing in a courtroom cage clad in a denim jacket and baseball cap, Serebrennikov said he was confused by the charges as he had “spent all the money given by the government on the project”. He asked to be freed to continue working on his new film.

“I’m not going to run from the investigation, I’m an innocent person, an honest person,” he said.

If convicted, he could be jailed for up to 10 years.

The case has sparked outrage and fear about shrinking artistic freedoms in Russia, with some calling it a demonstration of force against liberal culture ahead of next year’s presidential election. President Vladimir Putin is expected to run for office again.

Serebrennikov’s detention “in a largely absurd case… is a signal to the creative part of society from the authorities,” business daily Vedomosti said in an editorial.

SOURCE

punchng.com

23 August, 2017

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