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Russian Court Clears Director Accused Of 'Desecration'

A Russian court has cleared two theater leaders of any wrongdoing in a high-profile case in which they were accused of desecrating the image of Jesus Christ.

A court in Novosibirsk on March 10 threw out the case against the head of the Siberian city's State Opera and Ballet Theatre, Boris Mezdrich, and director Timofei Kulyabin, saying there was no evidence they violated the law.

Prosecutors whose case against Mezdrich and Kulyabin was based on a complain from a local Russian Orthodox cleric said that their updated staging of Richard Wagner's opera Tannhauser in December desecrated Christ's image and offended believers.

Kulyabin's production of the 19th century opera shifted the action to the present day, portraying the title character as a director making a film about Jesus visiting Venus's erotic grotto.

Some 1,000 Orthodox activists protested outside the Novosibirsk theatre on March 1.

The Russian Orthodox Church has regained a powerful role after decades of Soviet repression.

Artists and activists who have criticized the church or challenged its conservative values, such as the members of punk protest group Pussy Riot, have frequently faced pressure or prosecution.

Based on reporting by TASS,, and Interfax

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