MOSCOW (AP) — Russian prosecutors on Monday demanded a six-year prison term for an acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, a case widely seen as politically motivated.
Kirill Serebrennikov, 50, arguably Russia’s best-known theater and film director, and his associates were charged with embezzling 133 million rubles (about $2 million) of state funding for a theater project.
The prosecution on Monday amended the amount of allegedly embezzled funds to almost 129 million rubles (over $1.8 million) and asked the court to collect the money from the accused.
Investigators initially claimed that the director and his associates stole the funds allocated for staging several productions, one of which never saw the light of day — in fact it was staged to critical acclaim. The investigators later withdrew that claim, and have not since clarified where they believe money was stolen from.
Serebrennikov had rejected the accusations as absurd, and many in Russia saw the charges as punishment for his anti-establishment views. His productions, ranging from drama to opera and movies, have mocked official lies, corruption and growing social conservatism.
The director spent almost two years under house arrest between August 2017 and April 2019. Several of his associates spent months in jail.
Serebrennikov’s arrest sent shock waves throughout the country. Top members of the Russian artistic community have continually appealed to President Vladimir Putin and other top government officials to drop the case against Serebrennikov, and many prominent international artistic figures have joined the call.