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The Daily Vertical: Theater Of The Absurd (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Yesterday's arrest of Kirill Serebrennikov crosses a line.

It crosses a line because it shows that Vladimir Putin's regime is no longer just prosecuting opponents for things that are patently absurd and it is no longer fabricating criminal cases with any degree of plausibility.

Now it is making stuff up out of whole cloth and denying reality altogether.

Yesterday's arrest of Kirill Serebrennikov sets a precedent.

It sets a precedent because as soon as you do this once, it is easier to do it again, and again, and again.

And yesterday's arrest of Kirill Serebrennikov sends a message.

It sends a message because by coming after one of Russia's most renowned living film and theater directors in such a way, the Kremlin is saying that nobody who speaks out against the regime -- no matter how famous, prominent, or popular they may be -- is safe.

According to media reports, Serebrennikov and three of his colleagues are charged with embezzling state funding to produce an adaption of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The play premiered in November 2012 and was a big hit.

It has been staged multiple times in Moscow -- including at the Golden Mask Russian theater festival -- as well as in Paris.

The performances have been photographed and filmed and dozens of reviews have been published in Russia and abroad.

But despite all this, the authorities are insisting the play was never performed and that Serebrennikov and his colleagues simply pocketed the money.

In an editorial this week, Meduza compared Serebrennikov's case to that of Vsevolod Meyerhold, the director who was arrested and executed at the height of Josef Stalin's Great Terror.

We may not be back in the 1930s. But the Kremlin is again prosecuting Russia's best and brightest for political ends.

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