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Russia Puts Prominent Theater Director Under House Arrest

  • VOA News

Russia's theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov, second from right, is escorted in for hearings in a court in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.

A Moscow court placed prominent Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov under house arrest Wednesday on embezzlement charges in a case seen by many as an effort by authorities to squash dissent.

The 47-year-old Serebrennikov was arrested Tuesday on the set of a movie he was shooting in St. Petersburg and driven to a jail in Moscow, where he spent the night.

Serebrennikov is accused of embezzling $1.1 million in government money he received to fund his productions between 2011 and 2014. He denied those allegations in court Wednesday.

A judge in Moscow’s Basmanny Court rejected Serebrennikov’s request to be released on bail, even after his lawyer offered to provide as collateral the $1.1 million Serebrennikov is accused of embezzling. He will be under house arrest until October.

Serebrennikov is known in Russia for his theatrical productions that mock the government. His detention is widely viewed as part of Moscow’s efforts to silence critics.

Many members of Russia’s arts community spoke out on behalf of Serebrennikov following his detention. Irina Prokhorova, a sister of billionaire tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov, who owns the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, called Serebrennikov “the pride of Russia.”

In 2012, Serebrennikov took the helm of an aging Soviet-era theater and turned it into a popular, modern venue known as the Gogol Center. He is considered by many to be a mainstream cultural figure in Russia, although his interpretations of classic works have drawn criticism from conservative Russian politicians.

If convicted on the embezzlement charges, Serebrennikov could face up to 10 years in prison.

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