Russian Director Serebrennikov's Trial Adjourned Again

The embezzlement trial of Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov has been adjourned again due to the hospitalization of a co-defendant in the case.

Judge Yelena Akkuratova adjourned the Moscow trial until December 14 after the lawyer of former director of Moscow's Gogol Center, Aleksei Malobrodsky, announced at a December 10 hearing that Malobrodsky remained in hospital.

On December 5, the trial was adjourned until December 10 due to Malobrodsky’s hospitalization a day earlier with a "serious" heart condition.

The high-profile trial began on November 7.

Serebrennikov's August 2017 arrest drew international attention and prompted accusations that Russian authorities were targeting cultural figures who are at odds with President Vladimir Putin's government.

The acclaimed 49-year-old director initially was charged with organizing the embezzlement of 68 million rubles ($1 million) in state funds granted from 2011-14 to Seventh Studio, a nonprofit organization that Serebrennikov established.

In January 2018, prosecutors raised the amount Serebrennikov and his three co-defendants are accused of embezzling to 133 million rubles ($2 million).

All four defendants -- Serebrennikov, producers Malobrodsky and Yury Itin, and former Culture Ministry employee Sofia Apfelbaum -- have pleaded not guilty.

Serebrennikov has called the trial "absurd."

A fifth person charged in the case, accountant Nina Maslyayeva, pleaded guilty and has provided testimony used as evidence against the defendants.

Maslyayeva is to be tried separately.

Serebrennikov's supporters say the case was part of a politically motivated crackdown on the arts community ahead of Russia's March 2018 presidential election in which Putin, a longtime Soviet KGB officer who has been president or prime minister since 1999, won a fourth term in office.

Serebrennikov previously had taken part in antigovernment protests and voiced concerns about the increasing influence in Russia of the Russian Orthodox Church, whose ties with the state have increased under Putin.

With reporting by TASS and Meduza