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Russia's Putin Cracking Down on Opponents

Russia's Putin Cracking Down on Opponents
(AP)

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Friday, 25 August 2017 01:53 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The arrest Tuesday of one of Russia’s most celebrated theatre directors has sparked fresh speculation that the regime of Vladimir Putin is planning a new round of crackdowns on his opponents.

For its part, the White House has so far avoided any public comment on the arrest of Kirill Serebrennikov, who has been likened to such legendary American theatre directors as Harold Prince and the late Mike Nichols.

When Newsmax on Thursday asked White House press secretary Sarah Sanders for a comment about the arrest, she would only say, “I certainly can’t make an official statement at this time, but I will circle back with you.”

In Russia, demonstrations against the arrest began last week and there are growing charges of a new Putin offensive against critics within the Russian arts community.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, formerly a prisoner in Russia and now head of the Open Russia opposition group, told Newsmax, “The persecution of the famous theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov is another attempt to divert public attention away from real corruptionists among the Putin's circle, as well as to demonstrate to the cultural elite its vulnerability ahead of the elections.”

Of the mounting protests, Khodorkovsky said “the reaction of the society shows its unwillingness to accept the official position. However, the [opposition to Putin] still has no readiness for political mobilization."

Serebrenikov is director of the Gogol Centre, a popular theatre known for dealing with controversial themes in politics and sex. Since May, he has been the subject of a continuing string of harassment by the government over allegations he had embezzled as much as 68 million rubles ($1.5 million) from theatre projects mounted by Seventh Studio (an offshoot of the Gogol Center).

A spokesman for the prosecutor in Moscow told the TASS news agency that Serebrennikov is charged with telling individuals in the Seventh Studio “to enter into fictitious contracts with controlled entities and private entrepreneurs who allegedly fulfilled the obligations associated with the implementation of activities . . . the money from the Culture Ministry was withdrawn to the accounts of these counterparties [some were called ‘one-day firms’], cashed and distributed by Serebrennikov among the accomplices.”

Serebrennikov, who has called the charges against him “schizophrenic,” is scheduled for trial on Oct. 19.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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The arrest Tuesday of one of Russia’s most celebrated theatre directors has sparked fresh speculation that the regime of Vladimir Putin is planning a new round of crackdowns on his opponents.
russia, putin, serebrennikov
393
2017-53-25
Friday, 25 August 2017 01:53 PM
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