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Moscow Cinema Cancels Barred Stalin Comedy After Police Raid

Russian police pay a visit to the Pioneer art house cinema in Moscow on January 26.

A Moscow cinema that screened a satirical movie about Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in defiance of an official ban has announced that it will stop showing the film after a raid by police.

"For reasons beyond our control, the Pioner cinema has to cancel screenings of the film 'The Death of Stalin' from January 27," the theater said on its website late on January 26.

Anyone who has bought a ticket to a future screening will be reimbursed, it said and directed "any additional questions" to the Culture Ministry.

The Russian Culture Ministry on January 23 rescinded the permit allowing Scottish writer-director Armando Iannucci's dark comedy to be shown in Russian theaters after prominent conservative figures criticized the movie as a mockery of Russian history.

Defiant Moscow Cinema Shows Banned Stalin Comedy
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The Pioner (Pioneer) cinema ignored the decision and has been screening the film since January 25. Showing an unlicensed movie is punishable by a fine of up to 100,000 rubles (about $1,800). A second violation could lead to a theater's closure.

On January 26, six police officers accompanied by a group of men in civilian clothing went to the cinema following a matinee screening of the film, and at one point held an administrator and other cinema employees behind closed doors.

The Death of Stalin focuses on the power struggle in the Soviet Union immediately after dictator Josef Stalin's death in March 1953.The film premiered in Britain in October.

The Pioner Cinema is owned by oligarch Aleksandr Mamut and is popular among the Russian liberal elite.

Based on reporting by AFP and TASS