22 June 2020
State prosecutor demans six-year prison term for prominent Russian theater director

State prosecutor demans six-year prison term for prominent Russian theater director

Vyacheslav Prokofiev / TASS

A state prosecutor has demanded that theater director Kirill Serebrennikov be sent to prison for six years in a controversial embezzlement case, state-run news agency TASS reported on Monday.

50-year-old Serebrennikov and three co-defendants have been accused of embezzling 129 million roubles (over $1.86 million) in government funds granted from 2011 to 2014 to Seventh Studio, a nonprofit organization established by Serebrennikov, towards a theater project called Platforma (Platform).

Prosecutor Mikhail Reznichenko said on Monday that he investigation had proven the fact of the theft, and demanded that Serebrennikov be jailed for a six-year term and fined 800 thousand roubles (approximately $11,520).

Reznichenko also requested that Seventh Studio producer Alexei Malobrodsky serve 5 years in prison and pay a fine of 300 thousand roubles (approximately $4,320).

The prosecution asked the court to hand down 4-year prison terms and 200 thousand rouble (approximately $2,885) fines each for former Ministry of Culture official Sofia Upfelbaum and producer Yury Itin.

All the defendants deny any wrongdoing and dismiss the charges against them as unfounded. Serebrennikov has insisted that the money was used properly and called the accusations "absurd."

In April last year, Serebrennikov, Apfelbaum and Itin were released from house arrest, but ordered to remain in Moscow.

The case against Serebrennikov, head of Moscow's Gogol Center Theater, has been ongoing since fall 2018. The director's arrest in August 2017 drew international attention – multiple prominent figures both at home and abroad have called for his release.

His work has drawn criticism in Russia from conservatives who interpret his plays – which often feature obscene language and nudity – as overstepping 'acceptable' boundaries. Serebrennikov has also taken part in anti-government protests and criticized the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.