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Russian court finds director Serebrennikov guilty of fraud
Journalists surround Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov outside a court building in Moscow on June 26, 2020. A Moscow judge on June 26, 2020 handed outspoken Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov a three-year suspended sentence following a fraud conviction denounced by his supporters as politically motivated. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP.

MOSCOW (AFP).- A Moscow judge on Friday handed outspoken Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov a three-year suspended sentence following a fraud conviction that was denounced by his supporters as politically motivated.

"Serebrennikov's rehabilitation is possible without a real prison term," judge Olesya Mendeleyeva said, adding that the acclaimed theatre and film director would have to pay a fine and be banned from overseeing a cultural organisation.

"No comment," Serebrennikov said after the sentence was delivered, his face covered in a black mask as he followed the proceedings.

Several hundred supporters who had gathered outside the courthouse broke into applause on hearing news of the sentence.

Prosecutors had asked for a six-year prison term for Serebrennikov, who was earlier on Friday found guilty of misappropriating the equivalent of two million dollars in state funds meant for a theatrical project.

The judge had said that Serebrennikov and co-defendants Yury Itin and Konstantin Malobrodsky "carried out actions directed at personal enrichment" that misled employees of the culture ministry.

Itin and Malobrodsky were also given suspended sentences.

The prosecution had been criticised in Russia and abroad as an attempt to clamp down on artistic freedom.

Serebrennikov is known for daring statements and ground-breaking projects.

Some of them have angered conservatives and he had also criticised censorship of the arts in Russia, warning that "everything is returning to the most pathetic Soviet practices".

© Agence France-Presse

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