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Court extends house arrest for Russian theatre director

Last Updated Oct 17, 2017 at 5:21 pm EST

Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov, center, waits for his hearing in a court room in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. Russia's Investigative Committee appealed for an extension of Serebrennikov's house arrest after he was accused of scheming to embezzle around $1.1 million in government funds allocated for one of his productions and the projects he championed between 2011 and 2014. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

MOSCOW – A court in Russia’s capital ruled Tuesday to extend the house arrest of a widely revered theatre and film director.

Kirill Serebrennikov was detained and put under house arrest in August in a criminal case that sent shockwaves across Russia’s art community and raised fears of return to Soviet-style censorship.

Moscow’s Basmanny District Court decided to keep Serebrennikov under house arrest until Jan. 19 per investigators’ request.

Investigators have accused him of scheming to embezzle about $1.1 million in government funds allocated for one of his productions and the projects he directed between 2011 and 2014.

Serebrennikov has dismissed the accusations as absurd.

He pleaded with the court to allow him to continue work on his projects, insisting that he has no intention to flee.

“I’m not guilty and I feel that my cause is right,” he said, according to Russian news reports. “I believe that if a person has done nothing wrong, he doesn’t need to flee. I have no intention to go into hiding.”

Serebrennikov has been allowed to have two-hour walks each day.

The court on Tuesday also extended the house arrests of two of Serebrennikov’s colleagues and ruled to keep another suspect in custody for the same three-month period.

Serebrennikov’s productions ranging from drama to opera and movies have been criticized by conservative circles.

In July, the Bolshoi Theater cancelled a much-anticipated ballet about dancer Rudolf Nureyev directed by Serebrennikov just three days before the opening night.

The Bolshoi denied reports that the Nureyev ballet had been scrapped because of its frank description of his gay relationships, a taboo under a strict Russian law banning gay propaganda, but many in Moscow’s art scene attributed the move to pressure from conservative circles.

The Bolshoi has rescheduled the opening of the Nureyev ballet to December, and Serebrennikov asked the court Tuesday to let him continue to work on the project. He also pleaded with the court to allow him to complete the production of his movie about a Soviet rock star.