Police Investigating Film Foundation of Putin Critic Alexander Sokurov

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Alexander Sokurov

Sorkurov's organization, which supports young filmmakers, is accused of embezzling funds earmarked for film production.

Police in St. Petersburg have launched a probe into the foundation Primer Inotnatsii (Example of Intonation), run by well-known director and prominent critic of Vladimir Putin, Alexander Sokurov (Faust, Russian Ark).

The organization, which supports young filmmakers, is alleged to have embezzled public funds slated for film production, the news agency Interfax reported, adding that police are focusing their investigation on the foundation's director Nikolay Yankin.

Sokurov is an outspoken critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin. In an interview earlier this year, he raised the possibility of a crackdown on his foundation in retaliation for his verbal attacks on the Russian government.

Sokurov launched the foundation in 2013 with the stated goal of supporting young directors and helping them to make their first films. The foundation has produced several shorts and feature-length films, including Kantemir Balagov's Tesnota (Closeness), which took part in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes last year.

Sokurov is one of Russia's best-known directors. A favorite on the international festival circuit, he has had five films in competition in Cannes — including the ground-breaking, single-shot feature Russian Ark (2002) — and won the Golden Lion in Venice in 2011 with his drama Faust.

The investigation in Sokurov's foundation comes as another prominent director, whose work has been sharply critical of Putin's Russia, faces embezzlement charges. Kirill Serebrennikov, the director of this year's Cannes favorite Leto (Summer), has been under house arrest since August 2017.

He and several other defendants are being accused of the embezzlement of 133 million rubles ($2.2 million) in a case liked to Serebrennikov's former theater company, Sedmaya Studiya. The allegations have been widely dismissed as groundless.