Russian Director Serebrennikov Calls Case 'Absurd' As Court Extends House Arrest

Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov called the embezzlement allegations against him and his colleagues "absurd" as a Moscow court ordered him to remain under house arrest until August 22.

Serebrennikov, whose 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, spoke at a custody hearing in July 18.

"I have been facing an absurd accusation, on the basis of which I was illegally deprived of freedom. And that lawlessness continues," Serebrennikov told the Basmanny District Court.

He said that after reading the case materials, "it is absolutely obvious to us that there is no proof that we committed any crime."

Initially treated as a witness in an investigation targeting Moscow's Gogol Center theater, Serebrennikov was charged in August 2017 with organizing the embezzlement of 68 million rubles ($1.1 million) in state funds allocated to the theater's Seventh Studio from 2011-14. Several other people involved with the theater and Seventh Studio have also been accused or charged.

In his address to the court, which the Gogol Center posted on Facebook, he said that "everything we have read in this case explicitly confirms that what is happening is absolute nonsense."

He said that he was an artistic director and had nothing to do with any financial documents.

Serebrennikov's supporters have said the case was part of a politically motivated crackdown on Russia's arts community ahead of the March 2018 election in which President Vladimir Putin won a fourth Kremlin term.

Serebrennikov has taken part in antigovernment protests and voiced concern about the increasing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has close ties to the state.

The director was unable to attend the premiere of his much-praised film Leto (Summer) in Cannes, France, in May and his highly anticipated Bolshoi Theater ballet about the life of Russian dance legend Rudolf Nureyev in December.