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Russian Director Ordered To Remain Under House Arrest

Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov attends hearings in a court in Moscow on September 11.
Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov attends hearings in a court in Moscow on September 11.

A Moscow court has ordered Kirill Serebrennikov to remain under house arrest until October 19, ignoring an impassioned argument from the celebrated theater director, who said he was neither a criminal nor a flight risk.

A Moscow City Court judge issued the ruling at a September 11 custody hearing for Serebrennikov, who is accused of embezzling state funds allocated to his theater.

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.

"Your honor, a person who has committed no crime must not be held under house arrest -- that seems obvious," Serebrennikov, 49, told the court. "And yet I have been under house arrest for more than a year."

Arguing against an extension, he said it was "clear to everybody that I'm not going to flee anywhere," pointing out that he had returned when allowed to travel on a few occasions, such as after his mother's death.

Serebrennikov said that the investigators and other officials behind his prosecution knew that "the most important thing for me is work -- and to prevent me from working is punishment."

He said he had received "huge words of support" from well-wishers, as well as invitations to stage plays at "the best theaters in the country."

He said he was "endlessly grateful" for the messages of support but urged backers to send them to the chief investigator on his case instead, adding, "Let him read them all."

Initially treated as a witness in an investigation targeting Moscow's Gogol Center theater, Serebrennikov was charged in August 2017 with organizing the embezzlement of 68 million rubles ($1.1 million) in state funds allocated to the theater's Seventh Studio from 2011-14.

Several other people involved with the theater and Seventh Studio have also been accused or charged.

Serebrennikov has denounced the charges as "nonsense," saying among other things that he was an artistic director and had nothing to do with any financial documents. Supporters have said the case is part of a politically motivated crackdown on Russia's arts community ahead of the March 2018 election in which Putin won a fourth Kremlin term.

In the past, Serebrennikov has taken part in antigovernment protests and voiced concern about the increasing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has close ties to the state.

The director was unable to attend the premiere of his much-praised film Leto (Summer) in Cannes, France in May and his highly anticipated Bolshoi Theater ballet about the life of Russian dance legend Rudolf Nureyev in December.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service and Meduza
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