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Russian Court Hears Third Expert Opinion In Serebrennikov Embezzlement Case

Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov arrives at for a court hearing in Moscow on June 1.
Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov arrives at for a court hearing in Moscow on June 1.

MOSCOW -- Acclaimed Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov and his co-defendants might have embezzled 129 million rubles ($1.86 million), a Moscow court heard on June 1 as their high-profile trial resumed.

The 50-year-old Serebrennikov and three co-defendants are accused of embezzling state funds that were granted from 2011 to 2014 to Seventh Studio, a nonprofit organization established by Serebrennikov, for a project called Platforma.

Serebrennikov, who has denied wrongdoing, had taken part in anti-government protests and voiced concern about the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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

The new expert assessment presented to the court on June 1 was the third such evaluation in the case.

The initial study in 2017-2018 said the group might have stolen 133 million rubles ($1.92 million).

But the figure was questioned by Moscow's Meshchansky District Court trying the case and Judge Irina Akkuratova ordered a second assessment, which concluded that Platforma needed much more financial support than the amount allocated by the Culture Ministry.

The defense said at the time that the second assessment actually “proved” that Serebrennikov and his associates were innocent.

Akkuratova sent the case back to prosecutors in September, but Akkuratova's decision was overturned by the Moscow City Court, which returned the case back to the Meshchansky District Court.

The new presiding judge in the case ordered the third assessment.

Serebrennikov and two co-defendants -- producer Yury Itin and former Culture Ministry employee Sofia Apfelbaum -- were released from house arrest in April last year, but ordered to remain in Moscow.

The other defendant, Aleksei Malobrodsky, was also barred from leaving Moscow.