Russia barred a Hollywood movie set in the post-World War II Soviet Union from theaters a day before its scheduled April 16 premiere, saying the film distorts history.
Child 44 -- renamed Number 44 (Nomer 44) in Russia -- is based on a British thriller novel with the same title whose main character, Leo Demidov, is a disgraced Soviet security officer and survivor of the Stalin-orchestrated 1930s famine in Soviet Ukraine.
Russia's Culture Ministry said on April 15 that its experts had concluded that showing the movie just weeks before the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany was "unacceptable."
The statement said that a screening for ministry officials and press on April 14 had raised concerns over the film's content, "primarily about the distortion of historical facts and the idiosyncratic treatment of events before, during and after" World War II.
The decision to pull the film came after the ministry had on April 14 given the film a distribution license with an 18+ certificate.
President Vladimir Putin and his government are highly sensitive about any attempt to question Moscow's depiction of 20th-century history, in particular the years before, during, and after World War II.
At a meeting in January on preparations for the 70th anniversary ceremonies, Putin said Russian authorities must fight a "flow of impudent lies, falsifications, and distortions of historical facts" coming from the West.
The film, based on a book by Tom Rob Smith and set it 1952, a year before Stalin's death, stars British actors Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman and Swedish actress Noomi Rapace.
It tells the story of Demidov, a member of the repressive apparatus of the Stalinist-era Soviet Union who is exiled to a provincial backwater after his wife is charged with being an enemy of the people.
He becomes a police officer and chases a serial killer, a story line based on the real-life case of Andrei Chikatilo, who was convicted and sentenced to death for 52 murders in 1992 and subsequently executed in February 1994.
With reporting by AFP, TASS, and Meduza.io