Russian film director Kirill Serebrennikov gets bail in fraud case

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Kirill Serebrennikov has been under house arrest since 2017Image source, Getty Images
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Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov

Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov has been released on bail after being under house arrest since 2017 on controversial embezzlement charges.

The 49-year-old is accused of embezzling about $2m (£1.5m) in public money from a theatre project.

Mr Serebrennikov has been a prominent critic of arts censorship in Russia.

He maintains his innocence and his supporters say the case is politically motivated.

Mr Serebrennikov's co-defendants Sofia Apfelbaum and Yury Itin were also freed from house arrest on Monday, while a fourth defendant, Alexei Malobrodsky, was released last May.

The director can now work and communicate freely as long as he stays in Moscow.

"He can leave the apartment, he will be able to work, but he cannot go beyond Moscow," Mr Serebrennikov's lawyer, Dmitry Kharitonov, said following the ruling.

"There are no limits on his communication."

The case against Mr Serebrennikov has sparked outcry in Russia's arts world, with his supporters arguing that the director is being persecuted as part of a government crackdown on artistic freedoms.

A petition in 2017 calling on Russian officials "to drop the flimsy accusation" garnered more than 50,000 signatures.

Since being put under house arrest, Mr Serebrennikov has only been allowed to spend limited time outside his apartment.

His highly anticipated ballet production about dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who defected during the Cold War, was cancelled in 2017.

The Bolshoi theatre, which was due to host the production, argued that it was not ready for public performance. However, it was widely believed that the show was considered too risqué.

During his time in detention, Mr Serebrennikov remotely directed several productions, including an opera that premiered in Germany last month.

Speaking to Russia's Interfax news agency on Monday, Mr Serebrennikov said he planned to return to work.

"I will celebrate now but will return [to work] very soon. It's not easy psychologically but there is so much to do, we have stagings and rehearsals," he said.

"Thank you to all those people who... said 'hang in there!' But again, I repeat, this isn't finished yet, we will continue to prove our innocence in court."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that the case against Serebrennikov is not politically motivated.