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France Awards Serebrennikov, 'Key Figure' In Russian Culture, Medal

Kirill Serebrennikov (left) poses with French Ambassador Sylvie Bermann at the French Embassy in Moscow on October 14.
Kirill Serebrennikov (left) poses with French Ambassador Sylvie Bermann at the French Embassy in Moscow on October 14.

MOSCOW -- France has honored Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov by naming him a commander of the order of arts and letters, which was granted in recognition of significant contributions to the arts.

Serebrennikov, who has been accused of embezzlement by the Russian authorities, received the distinction in a ceremony at the residence of the French ambassador to Russia, Sylvie Bermann, on October 14.

Bermann said that Serebrennikov was "a key figure in the Russian culture," and his prominence went beyond Russia's borders, stressing his cooperation with French playwrights and theaters.

In accepting the award, Serebrennikov said it was a recognition of his efforts to establish closer links between the two countries.

Serebrennikov, 50, and three co-defendants are accused of embezzling up to 133 million rubles ($2 million) in state funds granted from 2011 to 2014 to Seventh Studio, a nonprofit organization established by Serebrennikov.

Serebrennikov, who has taken part in anti-government protests and voiced concern about the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, has denied wrongdoing and dismissed the charges against him as absurd.

In September, a court in Moscow sent the case against Serebrennikov and his associates back to prosecutors, citing inconsistency in the accusations.

On October 8, the Moscow City Court canceled that ruling.

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.

Serebrennikov and two co-defendants -- producer Yury Itin and former Culture Ministry employee Sofia Apfelbaum -- were released from house arrest under an April 8 court decision, but ordered to remain in Moscow.

The other defendant, Aleksei Malobrodsky, who was not under house arrest, was also barred from leaving Moscow.

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