Russian director Serebrennikov freed from house arrest
A Russian court on Monday ordered the release from house arrest of renowned film and theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov who is on trial on embezzlement charges.
A Moscow city court judge overturned a decision by a lower tribunal last week to extend his arrest for three more months, Serebrennikov’s lawyer told AFP.
The 49-year-old head of Moscow’s Gogol Centre theatre — who supporters say is facing politically motivated charges — has been detained since August 2017.
He will now be able to work and communicate, as long as he stays in Moscow, his lawyer Dmitry Kharitonov said.
“He can leave the apartment, he will be able to work, but he cannot go beyond Moscow,” he said, adding that the defence is pleased with the decision. “There are no limits on his communication.”
In a video from the courtroom published by the independent news website Meduza, Serebrennikov is seen raising his fist in joy as the judge announces the decision.
“All is not finished. We need to continue to prove our full innocence in court,” the video shows Serebrennikov saying outside the court. He also thanked “everyone who supported and cheered for us.”
Under the conditions of his house arrest, Serebrennikov was able to spend only limited time outside his apartment, for example when going to the gym, making work nearly impossible.
Speaking to Russian news agency Interfax, Serebrennikov said he plans to return to work.
“I will celebrate now but will return (to work) very soon. It’s not easy psychologically but there is so much to do, we have stagings and rehearsals,” he said.
Co-defendants Sofia Apfelbaum and Yury Itin were also freed from house arrest by the court decision Monday. A fourth defendant Alexei Malobrodsky was freed from house arrest last May.
– Shockwaves in arts world –
The director was accused of creating an organised criminal group with his colleagues, embezzling more than $2 million (1.75 million euros) of state funding for a theatre project called Platforma.
He has insisted the money was used properly and called the charges “absurd”.
“I have not and do not consider myself guilty,” he told a Moscow court in November last year.
His detention sent shockwaves through the Russian arts world and his case became a cause celebre in the West.
Hollywood actress Cate Blanchett has been among those calling for the charges against him to be dropped.
Serebrennikov has remotely directed several plays during the detention.
His new opera — a modern take on Verdi’s Nabucco — premiered in Hamburg last month. He sent instructions to singers and set designers on a USB stick through his lawyer.
Georges Delnon, the artistic director of the Hamburg State Opera where the play premiered, told AFP he was “very happy” Serebrennikov was released.
“I wish this exceptional artist that this is a first step towards full freedom and rehabilitation,” he said.
Serebrennikov also missed the premiere of his much-praised film “Summer” at the Cannes Film Festival last year.
Two of his Russian productions, the Bolshoi Theatre ballet Nureyev and the play Little Tragedies staged at the Gogol Centre, are nominated for prizes in the upcoming Golden Mask festival.
Serebrennikov was born in Rostov-on-Don, a southern Russian city of a million people not far from the border with Ukraine.
In 2012, he was appointed as the director of the small state-funded Gogol Centre, which he turned into one of Moscow’s best theatres and a favourite of the capital’s liberal intelligentsia.
But his appointment and work angered cultural conservatives. For many, Serebrennikov’s frequent use of on-stage nudity and obscene language as well as modern adaptations of Russian classics were a step too far.