Acclaimed Russian director convicted but not sent to prison

  • Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, leaves the Meshchansky court after hearings in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020.

    Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, leaves the Meshchansky court after hearings in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. Associated Press

  • People gather at the Meshchansky court to support Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov during a hearing of his case in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A court in Moscow is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday to the acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

    People gather at the Meshchansky court to support Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov during a hearing of his case in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A court in Moscow is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday to the acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, in a case widely seen as politically motivated. Associated Press

  • Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus to protect against coronavirus, greets his supporters and colleagues as he leaves the Meshchansky court after hearings in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A Moscow judge has convicted an acclaimed Russian theater director of embezzling state funds and imposed a three-year suspended sentence in a case widely seen as politically motivated. Kirill Serebrennikov and his associates were found guilty of fraud and embezzling 129 million rubles (over $1.8 million) of state funding for a theater project.

    Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus to protect against coronavirus, greets his supporters and colleagues as he leaves the Meshchansky court after hearings in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A Moscow judge has convicted an acclaimed Russian theater director of embezzling state funds and imposed a three-year suspended sentence in a case widely seen as politically motivated. Kirill Serebrennikov and his associates were found guilty of fraud and embezzling 129 million rubles (over $1.8 million) of state funding for a theater project. Associated Press

  • Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, center, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, leaves the Meshchansky court after hearings in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A Moscow judge convicted an acclaimed Russian theater director of embezzling state funds and imposed a three-year suspended sentence Friday in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

    Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, center, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, leaves the Meshchansky court after hearings in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A Moscow judge convicted an acclaimed Russian theater director of embezzling state funds and imposed a three-year suspended sentence Friday in a case widely seen as politically motivated. Associated Press

  • Policemen stand guard at the Meshchansky court before a hearing for Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov case in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A court in Moscow is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday to the acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

    Policemen stand guard at the Meshchansky court before a hearing for Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov case in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A court in Moscow is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday to the acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, in a case widely seen as politically motivated. Associated Press

  • People react after the hearings in the case of Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov outside the Meshchansky court in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A Moscow judge convicted an acclaimed Russian theater director of embezzling state funds and imposed a three-year suspended sentence Friday in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

    People react after the hearings in the case of Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov outside the Meshchansky court in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A Moscow judge convicted an acclaimed Russian theater director of embezzling state funds and imposed a three-year suspended sentence Friday in a case widely seen as politically motivated. Associated Press

  • Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov wearing a protective face mask sits prior to a court hearing at the Meshchansky court in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A court in Moscow is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday to the acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

    Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov wearing a protective face mask sits prior to a court hearing at the Meshchansky court in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A court in Moscow is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday to the acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, in a case widely seen as politically motivated. Associated Press

  • Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov wearing a protective face mask sits prior to his court hearing at the Meshchansky court in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A court in Moscow is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday to the acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

    Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov wearing a protective face mask sits prior to his court hearing at the Meshchansky court in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A court in Moscow is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday to the acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, in a case widely seen as politically motivated. Associated Press

  • Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, left, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus arrives for a court hearing at the Meshchansky court, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A court in Moscow is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday to the acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

    Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, left, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus arrives for a court hearing at the Meshchansky court, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A court in Moscow is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday to the acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, in a case widely seen as politically motivated. Associated Press

  • Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus arrives for a court hearing at the Meshchansky court, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A court in Moscow is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday to the acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

    Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus arrives for a court hearing at the Meshchansky court, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A court in Moscow is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday to the acclaimed theater director accused of embezzling state funds, in a case widely seen as politically motivated. Associated Press

  • Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, right, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, leaves the Meshchansky court after hearings in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A Moscow judge convicted an acclaimed Russian theater director of embezzling state funds and imposed a three-year suspended sentence Friday in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

    Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, right, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, leaves the Meshchansky court after hearings in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A Moscow judge convicted an acclaimed Russian theater director of embezzling state funds and imposed a three-year suspended sentence Friday in a case widely seen as politically motivated. Associated Press

  • Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, gestures as he leaves the Meshchansky court after hearings in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A Moscow judge convicted an acclaimed Russian theater director of embezzling state funds and imposed a three-year suspended sentence Friday in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

    Russian film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, gestures as he leaves the Meshchansky court after hearings in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. A Moscow judge convicted an acclaimed Russian theater director of embezzling state funds and imposed a three-year suspended sentence Friday in a case widely seen as politically motivated. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 6/26/2020 11:13 AM

MOSCOW -- A Moscow judge convicted an acclaimed Russian theater director of embezzling state funds and imposed a three-year suspended sentence Friday in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

Kirill Serebrennikov, 50, one of the most prominent theater and film directors in Russia, and his associates were found guilty of fraud and embezzling 129 million rubles (over $1.8 million) of state funding for a theater project.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The judge, saying that 'úreformation is possible without a real (prison) term," gave Serebrennikov and two other defendants suspended sentences, fines and ordered them to repay the embezzled funds. Prosecutors had requested a 6-year prison term for Serebrennikov.

A fourth defendant, former government official Sophia Apfelbaum, was convicted of negligence and fined; the fine was immediately lifted because of a statute of limitations.

The funds were for staging several productions, and investigators initially alleged that the director and his associates stole money through a show that never saw the light of day. In fact, the production was staged to critical acclaim. The investigators later withdrew their claim, and have not since clarified where they believe money was stolen from.

Serebrennikov had rejected the accusations as absurd; many in Russia saw the charges as punishment for his anti-establishment views. His productions, ranging from drama to opera and movies, have mocked official lies, corruption and growing social conservatism.

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The director spent almost two years under house arrest between August 2017 and April 2019. Several of his associates spent months in jail.

Serebrennikov's arrest sent shock waves throughout the country. Top members of the Russian artistic community repeatedly appealed to President Vladimir Putin and other top government officials to drop the case, and many prominent international artistic figures joined the campaign.

A crowd of Serebrennikov's supporters gathered in front of the courthouse Friday and greeted the director with applause when he came out. Serebrennikov thanked them for their 'úbelieving in our innocence and understanding of what's going on.'Ě

'úThe truth should be fought for,'Ě he said.

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