Kirill Serebrennikov: Russian film and theater director convicted of fraud

Kirill SerebrennikovImage copyright


Kirill Serebrennikov, wearing a protective mask, was greeted by supporters outside of court in Moscow.

Prominent Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov received a suspended three-year sentence after being found guilty of embezzlement.

He and two others were convicted of embezzling £ 1.5m ($ 1.86m) from state funds for a theater project.

Serebrennikov called the charges ridiculous. Supporters say the case aims to stifle artistic expression.

But the Russian government said the verdict would serve as a warning against corruption in the arts.

The film and theater director, a well-known critic of artistic censorship in Russia, was greeted by a crowd of supporters when he reached his court audience on Friday. He and many others wore face masks to protect themselves against the coronavirus.

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Media captionSerebrennikov’s first court appearance in 2017 sparked protests

Inside the Moscow courthouse, the judge said the director and the defendants, Yury Itin and Konstantin Malobrodsky, had “carried out actions aimed at personal enrichment” and misled the staff of the culture ministry.

Serebrennikov was paroled for three years, fined and banned from supervising a cultural organization.

“Kirill is devastated by the conviction but very happy to go home,” said his lawyer Dmitry Kharitonov.

Itin and Malobrodsky also received suspended sentences and were ordered to pay fines.

What was the director accused of?

The case refers to a modern art project called Platforma, which was executed between 2011 and 2014.

Prosecutors said Serebrennikov had formed a criminal group with his co-defendants to sign nonexistent service contracts and pocketed the money.

He has long insisted that the money was spent properly for its intended purpose. The case nearly collapsed at one point, when a judge sent it back to prosecutors due to “inconsistencies.”

The trial resumed with a new judge, who supported the claims. The prosecution had asked for a six-year prison sentence, but Serebrennikov received a suspended three-year sentence.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the case warranted “a thorough analysis of how state funds are spent on cultural institutions so there is less scope for corruption in this area.”

Who Is Serebrennikov?

The 50-year-old man runs one of Moscow’s most prominent theaters, the Gogol Center.

A rigorous critic of artistic censorship in Russia, he warned that “everything is going back to the most pathetic Soviet practices.”

Serebrennikov’s ballet production on dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who defected during the Cold War, was canceled in 2017.

Described as one of the season’s most anticipated ballets, he was removed while Serebrennikov was placed under house arrest for the alleged embezzlement.

  • Ballet premiere canceled in Bolshoi
  • Crowd demands the release of the Russian director

His arrest was seen by many as politically motivated and sparked a protest in the arts world, in Russia and beyond.

A petition gathered more than 50,000 signatures urging Russian officials to “drop the flimsy accusation.” Foreign signers included actresses Cate Blanchett and Nina Hoss, and film director Lars von Trier.