June 22, 2020 / 10:00 AM / 2 months ago

Russian prosecutors seek six-year jail term for director who lampooned authorities

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian prosecutors asked a Moscow court on Monday to declare award-winning film and theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov guilty of embezzlement and to jail him for six years, the RIA news agency reported.

The prosecution of Serebrennikov, 50, art director at Moscow’s avant-garde Gogol Centre theatre, prompted an outcry among figures in the world of culture who say he is being persecuted for his work.

Before Monday’s hearing, over 3,000 Russian cultural figures called on the culture minister in an open letter to drop the case against Serebrennikov, whose works lampooned what he saw as the pernicious role of the church and state in Russian society. They said they had no doubt the case against him was fabricated.

Prosecutors accuse Serebrennikov of leading a criminal group which embezzled 129 million roubles ($1.86 million)in state funds, a charge he denied. On Monday, prosecutors also asked the court to jail three other suspects for between 4 and 5 years.

Serebrennikov was first detained in 2017. Last year he was released on bail from house arrest.

Last year Serebrennikov was named best director at Russia’s Nika Awards for his film, Leto, about late Soviet rock musician Viktor Tsoi.

($1 = 69.4426 roubles)

Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Anton Kolodyazhnyy; Editing by Alison Williams and Timothy Heritage

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