Ukraine's Biggest Film Studio Taken Over by Political Activists

Protests in Kiev
Protests in Kiev
 AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

MOSCOW -- Anti-government protestors in Kiev have taken over Ukraine's biggest film studio, Dovzhenko, accusing the management of embezzling state property.

Members of the Right Sector, the most radical participants in the recent ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich, showed up at the Kiev-based studio on Thursday, wearing body armor and balaclavas and armed with clubs, the Ukrainian TV channel ICTV reported.

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They said they were looking for pro-Yanukovich thugs, who were allegedly hiding on the premises, and also wanted to question the management about alleged embezzlement of property of the state-run studio. They demanded that the studio's general director immediately submit his resignation, but he refused.

Dovzhenko employees called the police, but the officers who responded to the call did not interfere. According to the ICTV report, the studio's employees said they feared that the activists could have been sent by someone interested in the studio's lucrative properties in central Kiev.

The activists denied that, however.

"We had information that the studio had a huge supply of pyrotechnical equipment, which could be used as weapons against civil citizens," a spokesman for the Right Sector later said. "So, we came to investigate."

Meanwhile, the future of the Ukrainian film industry, which has heavily depended on state cash over the last few years, is uncertain as the country is facing serious financial problems, and the state budget is virtually empty.

Last year, $17.5 million was earmarked for local filmmakers by the State Film Agency, which said it could provide more if necessary. But it is unclear how much cash, if any, Ukrainian filmmakers can hope for this year.

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