Russian Prosecutors Probe Cash Payments in Regional Arts Festival

Local legislators question why two directors of state arts institutions in the Urals city of Perm are paid cash for festival duties.

SOCHI, Russia – Prosecutors have opened an investigation into cash payments to managers of a Russian Urals region arts festival Perm's White Nights that opened June 1.

The probe was prompted by local legislative assembly member Vadim Chebykin, following newspaper reports into the festival’s finances, prosecutors say.

Chebykin wants to know whether cash payments made to festival managers are “legal and valid," media reports say.

The move comes less than two weeks after President Vladimir Putin announced a crackdown on corruption in the way some public film funds are spent.

Russian officials – known here as chinovniki in the local slang from the word for shoulder epaulettes worn on official’s uniforms in Tsarist times – are famously sensitive to signals from the Kremlin.

Marat Gelman, festival development director and art director Vladimir Gurfinkel, are named in the in probe. Gelman is the head of Perm’s modern art museum and Gurfinkel runs the city’s main theater.

Chebykin reportedly sees a conflict in managers of regional cultural institutes being paid additional amounts in cash and wants to check whether they are on monthly state payrolls.

The move comes after media reports that the festival’s budget is around $7.7 million – with around $5.8 million from city and regional sources and the rest in sponsorship from an oil company.

The festival, which is in its third edition, features plays, street performances and interactive activities over a period of weeks.



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