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Kirill Serebrennikov charged with fraud

Kirill Serebrennikov charged with fraud

Serebrennikov, art director at Moscow's avant-garde Gogol Centre theatre, denies any wrongdoing.

Serebrennikov's productions have topped Moscow's theater scene for years.

Kirill Serebrennikov, 47, was arrested in St. Petersburg on Tuesday after Russia's Investigative Committee said in a statement that it suspected he had misappropriated at least 68m roubles ($1.15m) from 2011 to 2014 in government funds earmarked for an art project.

'They're drawing a new red line: your creative work must glorify (the authorities) - and with your friends, you should hold your tongue, ' he wrote.

In July, the Bolshoi Theater postponed a much anticipated ballet, directed by Mr. Serebrennikov, that depicted the life of the dance legend Rudolf Nureyev and that touched on themes of homosexuality and AIDS. Under Russian law, embezzlement of this size is punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years.

After interrogation, Serebrennikov was taken to jail pending a court hearing Wednesday on whether to keep him in custody.

Three former employees connected with Serebrennikov's Gogol Center are now on trial, including Aleksey Malobrodsky, the former managing director of Gogol Center, who is accused of embezzling 2.3 million rubles ($38,700) from the budget of Serebrennikov's project, and an accountant, Nina Maslyayeva, who, during a court hearing earlier this month, accused Serebrennikov of being the mastermind behind a scheme to siphon off government funds.

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'This is a very gifted and talented person.

He said the case was opened because "suspicions arose that there were financial violations". The theater's accountant and one senior manager are in custody and another manager is under house arrest pending the probe.

Russian Federation media have reported that the accountant and several others had testified against Serebrennikov. "He was in great spirits", Mikhail Idov, who co-wrote a script for Serebrennikov's upcoming film 'Leto, ' said on Facebook on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, an accountant at the Gogol Centre, Nina Maslyayeva, was brought on trial who testified against the theatre's director, claiming that Serebrennikov along with Malabrodksy and Yuri Itin, set up a scheme to fraudulently syphon off government funds. The Bolshoi rescheduled the premiere for next May, saying the show was canceled due to technical problems that "cannot be solved in two days".

Officials including the head of the presidential human rights committee, the deputy mayor of Moscow and the former finance minister said Mr Serebrennikov's confinement was too harsh a measure.

Urin, the Bolshoi director, had said the ballet would be staged in May next year, but Serebrennikov's detention raises fresh doubts about its eventual production.


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