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Leading theatre figures protest against Russian director’s ‘politically motivated’ arrest

Kirill Serebrennikov Kirill Serebrennikov
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David Lan, Simon McBurney and Thomas Ostermeier are among almost 9,000 people that have signed a petition calling for the release of director Kirill Serebrennikov, who is under criminal investigation in his native Russia.

Serebrennikov has been accused of embezzling government funds, but the petition claims there is extensive evidence this is not the case and calls for the “flimsy” charges against him to be dropped.

It has been organised by Ostermeier, director of the Schaubuhne in Berlin, and initial signatories include actors Cate Blanchett and Lars Eidinger, director Benedict Andrews, and writers Mark Ravenhill, Enda Walsh, Milo Rau and Marius von Mayenburg, as well as Young Vic artistic director Lan and Complicite director McBurney.

Serebrennikov was arrested last week for allegedly embezzling about £900,000 of government money, in particular for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which it is claimed never took place. Serebrennikov pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The petition, which has 8,932 supporters, reads: “Video recordings, reviews, Facebook entries by audience members, tours to Riga and Paris, a nomination for the Russian national theatre award Golden Mask and, last but not least, the programme of the Gogol Center in Moscow prove that this charge is absurd.

“And yet Serebrennikov stands in danger of being convicted and of receiving a prison sentence of up to 10 years.”

Serebrennikov has been placed under house arrest until his trial in October. He is unable to use the internet and is only permitted restricted access to close family members.

The petition continues: “We ask the Russian public prosecution office to stop the criminal prosecution of Kirill Serebrennikov and to drop the flimsy accusations against him.

“We urgently appeal to our government representatives to ensure that Serebrennikov doesn’t become the victim of a politically motivated defamation of character and doesn’t end up in prison.”

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