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Russian Director Serebrennikov's Trial Postponed Until Next Month

Kirill Serebrennikov speaks to the media before his court hearing in Moscow on October 25.
Kirill Serebrennikov speaks to the media before his court hearing in Moscow on October 25.

MOSCOW -- A court in Moscow has postponed the trial in a high-profile case against Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov and his associates.

Judge Yelena Akkuratova ruled that the trial could not start on October 25, citing the absence of one of the defense lawyers in the courtroom.

Akkuratova said the lawyer was absent because she was sick, and postponed the trial until November 7.

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.

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 state funds from 2011-14 at the Seventh Studio, a nonprofit organization established by the director.

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

Serebrennikov, who is under house arrest, 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 was 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.

Serebrennikov in the past took 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 Cannes Film Festival premiere of his much-praised film Leto (Summer) in May.

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