Russian Director Detained in Fraud Probe

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Kirill Serebrennikov

Kirill Serebrennikov, whose 'The Student' won a Cannes award last year, was detained in a high-profile case of alleged embezzlement of state funds.

Prominent Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov was detained early Tuesday on suspicion of a role in the embezzlement of government funds.

"Creative director of Moscow's Gogol Center theater Kirill Serebrennikov has been detained on suspicions of organizing embezzlement of at least 68 million rubles [$1.2 million], allocated in 2011-2014 [by the government] for the execution of Platforma theater project," a spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee said.

She added that charges against Serebrennikov, former head of the theater center Sedmaya Studia, which ran the Platforma project, would be brought shortly. Under Russian law, embezzlement of this size is punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years.

The probe into Sedmaya Studia was launched in May. Back then, Serebrennikov's apartment and Gogol Center, which he has headed since 2012, were searched, and he was called in for questioning. Later, Sedmaya Studia's former general director Yuri Itin and chief accountant Nina Maslyayeva and Gogol Center's former general director Alexei Malobrodsky were arrested.

Investigators claim that government funds provided for staging William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream as part of a Platforma project were partially embezzled by the theater center's management and the performance was never executed — a claim that many, including Serebrennikov, dismissed as "absurd."

Earlier this month, authorities collected Serebrennikov's passport, preventing him from leaving the country.

Many well-known Russian culture personalities have expressed support for Serebrennikov, who has often been critical of the Russian authorities, while plays performed at Gogol Center clearly marked a dissent from official ideology.

Serebrennikov has worked as theater director in Russia, Germany and Latvia and also directed several movies.

His most recent feature, Uchenik (The Student), participated in the Un Certain Regard sidebar in Cannes last year and won the Francois Chalais award.