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A Moscow court has extended the term of house arrest for theater director Kirill Serebrennikov and two associates in an embezzlement trial that the defendants and their supporters contend is politically motivated.

In an April 2 ruling, Meshchansky district court Judge Irina Akkuratova left Serebrennikov, producer Yury Itin, and former Culture Ministry employee Sofia Apfelbaum under house arrest until July 4.

A lawyer for Itin, Yury Lysenko, told RFE/RL that all three defendants would contest the extension of house arrest.

The fourth defendant in the case, producer Aleksei Malobrodsky, is not under house arrest but is barred from leaving Moscow.

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 was initially charged with organizing the embezzlement of 68 million rubles (more than $1 million) in state funds granted from 2011 to 2014 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 have pleaded not guilty and Serebrennikov has described the trial, which began in October 2018, as “absurd.”

A fifth person charged in the case, accountant Nina Maslyayeva, pleaded guilty and has provided testimony used as evidence against the defendants. She is to be tried separately.

Serebrennikov’s supporters say the case was part of a crackdown on the arts community ahead of the March 2018 presidential election in which Putin, a longtime Soviet KGB officer who was first elected president in 2000, won a fourth term.

Serebrennikov had previously 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.

Despite being under house arrest, the director has staged an opera that premiered in March in Hamburg, Germany.

With reporting by Current Time, RIA Novosti, TASS, and Interfax


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