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article imageRussian director's case to be heard in open court

By AFP     Nov 6, 2018 in World

Russian stage and screen director Kirill Serebrennikov was set to appear in the first open hearing of his controversial embezzlement case Wednesday, over a year after his arrest and isolation.

The acclaimed and award-winning director and head of Moscow's Gogol Centre theatre venue is accused of embezzling over $2 million of state funding for a theatre project.

He has dismissed the accusations, insisting that the money was used properly.

Supporters see the probe as part of a crackdown on artistic independence under President Vladimir Putin, and many prominent cultural figures from Russia and beyond have called for his release.

He was arrested in August, 2017, and his trial began on October 17 with a closed hearing.

Wednesday's hearing at Moscow's Meshchansky District Court is scheduled to start at 0630GMT and is open to the public.

Many prominent cultural figures from Russia and beyond have called for his release
Many prominent cultural figures from Russia and beyond have called for his release
Valery HACHE, AFP/File

The prosecution claims that Serebrennikov and his three co-defendants -- Sofia Apfelbaum, Yuri Itin and Alexei Malobrodsky -- stole part of the funds allocated for the Platforma interdisciplinary modern art project between 2011 and 2014.

They are accused of doing this by signing fake contracts for "imaginary services" and then using the money "for their personal needs" while filing sham financial reports to the government.

Serebrennikov's defence last month asked the judge to call as witnesses the 400 people involved in the Platforma project, but said the request was refused.

While under house arrest, 49-year-old Serebrennikov missed premieres of two of his major theatrical productions while continuing to work despite a ban on phone or internet usage.

Shooting and editing on his film "Leto" (Summer) had to be completed without him.

But he managed to produce the opera "Cosi Fan Tutte", which premiered in Zurich Sunday, by recording videos with instructions on memory sticks which were then sent to Switzerland, and received rehearsal recordings back.

Last week Serebrennikov was nominated in three different categories for the prestigious Golden Mask theatre award, with both of his theatrical premieres from last year up for prizes.

One was a modern take on a collection of small plays by Alexander Pushkin called "Little Tragedies" at the Gogol Centre theatre.

The other acclaimed production was "Nureyev", a ballet biopic of legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev which was shown by the Bolshoi Theatre last year.

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