Kirill Serebrennikov: Russian film and stage director convicted of fraud

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Kirill Serebrennikov, wearing a protective nose and mouth mask, was greeted by supporters outside the court in Moscow

Prominent Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov has received a three-year suspended sentence after being found guilty of embezzlement.

He and two others were convicted of misappropriating £1.5m ($1.86m) of state funds for a theatre project.

Serebrennikov has called the charges laughable. His supporters say the case aims to stifle artistic expression.

But the Russian government said the verdict would serve as a warning against corruption in the arts.

The film and stage director, a well-known critic of arts censorship in Russia, was greeted by a crowd of well-wishers as that he arrived for his court hearing on Friday. He and many more wore face masks to guard against the coronavirus.

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Media captionSerebrennikov’s first court appearance in 2017 drew protests

Inside the Moscow courthouse, the judge said the director and co-defendants Yury Itin and Konstantin Malobrodsky had “carried out actions directed at personal enrichment” and misled staff at the culture ministry.

Serebrennikov was placed on probation for 36 months, fined, and banned from overseeing a cultural organisation.

“Kirill is devastated by the conviction but very happy to be going home,” said his lawyer Dmitry Kharitonov.

Itin and Malobrodsky were also given suspended sentences and ordered to pay fines.

What was the director accused of?

The case relates to a modern-art project named Platforma, which ran between 2011 and 2014.

Prosecutors said Serebrennikov had formed a criminal group with his co-defendants to sign contracts for non-existent services and pocketed the money.

He has long insisted the amount of money was correctly spent for the intended purpose. The case not quite collapsed at one point, when a judge sent it back to prosecutors because of “inconsistencies”.

The trial resumed with a fresh judge, who backed the claims. The prosecution had asked for a six-year prison sentence, but Serebrennikov received a three-year suspended term.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the case justified “a thorough analysis of how state funds are spent in cultural institutions so that there is less scope for corruption in this area”.

Who is Serebrennikov?

The 50-year-old heads one of Moscow’s most prominent theatre venues, the Gogol Centre.

A stringent critic of arts censorship in Russia, he has warned that “everything is returning to the most pathetic Soviet practices”.

Serebrennikov’s ballet production in regards to the dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who defected throughout the Cold War, was cancelled in 2017.

Described together of the absolute most anticipated ballets of the summer season, it was pulled while Serebrennikov was placed directly under house arrest for the alleged embezzlement.

  • Ballet premiere cancelled at Bolshoi
  • Crowd demands Russian director’s release

His detention was seen by many as politically motivated and generated an outcry in the arts world – in Russia and beyond.

A petition gathered more than 50,000 signatures urging Russian officials “to drop the flimsy accusation”. Foreign signatories included actresses Cate Blanchett and Nina Hoss, and the film director Lars von Trier.

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