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Experts Unable To Establish Financial Fraud In Trial Of Prominent Russian Director

Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov attends a court hearing in Moscow on August 16.
Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov attends a court hearing in Moscow on August 16.

Experts have been unable to establish that state money allocated for Russian theater director Kirill Serebrennikov's projects was misused, Judge Irina Akkuratova said as the high-profile embezzlement trial resumed in Moscow.

"It is impossible to determine general expenditures of [Serebrennikov's] Seventh Studio [project] due to lack of financial and accounting records. Because of the same reason, there is no way to establish if inappropriate expenses have ever taken place," the judge said on August 16 while relaying conclusions by experts who were ordered to examine case materials.

Serebrennikov's lawyer, Dmitry Kharitonov, said that the experts' additional evaluation of financial, artistic, and other information relating to the case had proven that "nobody has stolen anything."

Akkuratova ordered the new study of evidence in April and prolonged the time for such a study in June.

The 49-year-old Serebrennikov and three co-defendants are accused of embezzling up to 133 million rubles ($2 million) in state funds granted from 2011 to 2014 to Seventh Studio, a nonprofit organization established by Serebrennikov.

Serebrennikov's August 2017 arrest drew international attention and prompted accusations that Russian authorities were targeting cultural figures who are at odds with President Vladimir Putin's government.

Serebrennikov, who has taken part in anti-government protests and voiced concerns about the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, has denied wrongdoing and dismissed the charges against him as absurd.

Serebrennikov and two co-defendants -- producer Yury Itin and former Culture Ministry employee Sofia Apfelbaum -- were released from house arrest under an April 8 court decision but were ordered to remain in Moscow.

The other defendant, Aleksei Malobrodsky, is not under house arrest but is also barred from leaving Moscow.

Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax