ARTICLE 19 condemns yesterday’s decision by Moscow’s Basmanny court to place well-known Russian theatre and film director and Kremlin critic, Kirill Serebrennikov, under house arrest while he is investigated on charges of fraud. ARTICLE 19 calls on the Russian government to uphold Serebrennikov’s right to a fair trial and proportional punishment.
On 22 August 2017, Serebrennikov was arrested in St Petersburg and brought to Moscow where he was charged with of embezzling 68 million Russian Roubles (around £880,000) of state funding. The charges were made under Article 159(4) of Russia’s Criminal Code for ‘large-scale fraud’ and are linked to government funding received by Serebrennikov’s Gogol Theatre, whose performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dreamthe Russian authorities allege never took place. Serebrennikov has stated that the play was performed on numerous occasions and was even nominated for awards and has rejected the charges against him. Charges of large-scale fraud under Article 159(4) can be punished by up to ten years’ imprisonment.
Serebrennikov was held in a secure isolation unit overnight and yesterday placed under house arrest by order of Moscow’s Basmanny court. The conditions of his house arrest mean that Serebrennikov is banned from using the phone or communicating with anyone without the investigators’ permission. Serebrennikov’s lawyer, Dmitriy Kharitonov, has publicly disagreed with the court’s decision and stated that he considers house arrest to be an unjustifiable and excessive measure of restraint. Serebrennikov had his passport confiscated on 11 August and close friends and colleagues do not believe that he was planning to leave Russia.
Many from within Russia’s cultural elite have spoken out claiming the charges made against Serebrennikov are politically motivated and his supporters consider the investigation is part of a wider government crackdown on dissent.
ARTICLE 19 reiterates its calls on the Russian authorities to release Serebrennikov from house arrest pending the results of the investigative committee and give him access to a free and fair trial.