Police officers have shown up at a Moscow cinema that screened a satirical movie about Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in defiance of an official Russian government order.
Moscow police didn't immediately declare the purpose of their visit to the Pioner (Pioneer) theater on January 26.
But their visit to the Pioner came a day after the Russian Culture Ministry warned cinemas in the country that they will face legal ramifications if they continue to show The Death of Stalin.
The ministry on January 23 rescinded the permit allowing Scottish writer-director Armando Iannucci's dark comedy to be shown in Russian theaters after prominent conservative figures criticized the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. The film premiered in Britain in October.
The Pioner 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.
The Culture Ministry had warned in September that it might ban Ianucci's black comedy, which Communist Party lawmakers described as Western "psychological warfare."
"Many people of the older generation, and not only, will regard it as an insulting mockery of all the Soviet past, of the country that defeated fascism and of ordinary people, and what's even worse, even of the victims of Stalinism," Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said in a statement on January 25.
The Death of Stalin focuses on the power struggle in the Soviet Union immediately after dictator Josef Stalin's death in March 1953.
"I liked the film. I never expected to see our former government leaders depicted like that," Reuters quoted former teacher Dina Voronova, 80, as saying. Voronova said she remembers seeing Stalin's body in an open casket at his funeral.
Critics of the Kremlin say Russia will never come to grips with its past, and particularly the crimes committed by the Soviet state under Stalin, if the authorities block efforts to treat it with humor.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the banning of the film did not constitute censorship.
"We disagree that it's a manifestation of censorship," he said.