Russian Director Kirill Serebrennikov Freed From House Arrest

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Kirill Serebrennikov

Serebrennikov, who had been detained since August 2017, is freed by court order but must stay in Moscow to face trial in a $2 million fraud case.

Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov has been freed from house arrest in Moscow after 20 months in detention.

A court in the Russian capital Monday overturned a district court decision to extend his house arrest and ordered him free without bail until a trial date is set. The court requested that he not leave Moscow until that time.

Serebrennikov was arrested in August 2017 and charged with embezzling $2 million in state funds from the Gogol Center, an avant-garde theater he runs in Moscow.

He was placed under house arrest pending trial. Repeated extensions were granted to his detention by district courts with no sign of a full trial date being set.

Lawyers for Serebrennikov, who was charged along with two other members of the theater who were also released from detention Monday, claim the charges were absurd. Many in Russia view the case as punishment for Serebrennikov's outspoken anti-Kremlin views.

Serebrennikov, who was unable to attend Cannes last year where his film Summer (Leto) played in competition, said he would push for a full acquittal.

Speaking to reporters outside the court, the director said he looked forward to the day "when this nightmare ends and we prove our innocence."

Serebrennikov's detention has become an international cause celebre with prominent filmmakers around the world calling for his release.

The Kremlin declined to comment on the court decision, although Russian President Vladimir Putin has in the past refused to interfere, stating it was a matter for the courts to decide.

The first signs of Serebrennikov's difficulties came two years ago when a controversial Bolshoi theater production based on the life of Soviet-era ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who defected during the Cold War, was canceled a week before the curtain was due to go up.

The famous Moscow theater claimed the production was not ready for public performance, though many believed it was because the ballet was considered too risque for largely conservative Russian audiences.