RUSSIALINK: “Court finds stage director Serebrennikov, other Studio Seven case defendants but Apfelbaum guilty of fraud” – Interfax

File Photos of Law Books and Gavel, adapted from image at fjc.gov

MOSCOW. June 26 (Interfax) – The Moscow Meshchansky District Court has found stage director Kirill Serebrennikov and other defendants in the Studio Seven case but Sofia Apfelbaum guilty of fraud, an Interfax correspondent reported.

“Serebrennikov, Malobrodsky and Itin have committed fraud, i.e. conspired to embezzle a large amount of others’ property by deception and betrayal of trust,” Judge Olesya Mendeleyva said as she was reading out the verdict.

The court ruled that the heads of the Studio Seven autonomous non-profit organization Kirill Serebrennikov, Alexei Malobrodsky, and Yury Itin had misappropriated approximately 129 million rubles allocated for the Platform project.

Thus, the overall damage in this case, which amounts to 128,974,690 rubles, matches the results of the second examination carried out at the state prosecutor’s request during the second trial.

“Serebrennikov, Malobrodsky, and Itin unlawfully misappropriated without compensation and converted to their own use 128,974,690 rubles, which they disposed of at their own discretion,” the verdict says.

The court has established that former director of the Russian Culture Ministry’s department of state support for arts and crafts Sofia Apfelbaum, a defendant in the Studio Seven case, did not know about Studio Seven stage director Kirill Serebrennikov’s plans to misappropriate budget funds.
According to the verdict, Apfelbaum, being unaware “of the criminal plan” and “the criminal nature of those steps,” “acted on her own,” ensuring funding and the conclusion of the appropriate agreements for Serebrennikov’s Platform project.

The court has found Sofia Apfelbaum guilty of negligence as part of the Studio Seven case.

“Apfelbaum committed negligence, i.e., improper fulfillment by an official of her official duties as a result of malpractice and a negligent attitude toward her service,” the verdict says.

According to it, Apfelbaum accepted documents and reports from Kirill Serebrennikov’s Studio Seven without the proper verification and oversight, thus causing the state to lose approximately 129 million rubles.

The fraud charges Serebrennikov, Malobrodsky, and Itin and the negligence charge against former department head at the Russian Culture Ministry Sofia Apfelbaum are proven, primarily, by testimony from former Studio Seven chief accountant Nina Maslyayeva and a representative of the Culture Ministry, the court said.

“The involvement of Serebrennikov, Malobrodsky, and Itin in the crime defined by Part 4, Article 159 of the Russian Criminal Code, and the involvement of Apfelbaum in the crime defined by Part 1, Article 293 of the Russian Criminal Code […] is confirmed by testimony from individuals, whose criminal proceedings were separated after they made a deal with investigators, as well as a representative of the aggrieved party,” the judge said as she read out the verdict.

Heavy damage

The crime committed by stage director Kirill Serebrennikov has inflicted heavy damage, and the Culture Ministry is taking measures in order to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future, Culture Minister Olga Lyubimova said.

“Obviously, we are aware of the trial and of the broad public response,” Lyubimova told journalists on Friday.

“It’s pointless to make populist statements and to act in a higher court’s stead by assessing the lawfulness of the sentence,” she said.

“The Culture Ministry is the aggrieved party in the proceeding, which concerns serious damages incurred by the state,” she said.

Together with the cultural community, the ministry “is elaborating systemic measures bound to prevent similar tragic incidents, in which an artist and a creator deals with money and estimates, from happening in our cultural sector in the future,” Lyubimova said.

The ministry has drafted a bill, on amendments to the fundamentals of Russian legislation on culture, Lyubimova said. “There will be a legislative separation of powers between the director and the artistic director in managing a theater or a concert organization, i.e., a cultural establishment, primarily in the area of the performing arts,” she said.

“This separation is not an imperative, but a possibility. It has not been formalized in law before,” Lyubimova said.

Kremlin’s reaction

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed no doubt that the Russian Culture Ministry would check how public funds are spent by cultural establishments in the context of the so-called Serebrennikov case.

“Obviously, the Serebrennikov case gives reason for thoroughly analyzing the spending of public funds by cultural establishments in order to reduce the possibility of such corrupt practices,” Peskov told journalists on Friday.

This is the duty of the Culture Ministry, Peskov said, adding that he has no doubt that “the necessary analysis will be done.”

The Kremlin is aware and is taking into account the opinions of cultural figures about the Studio Seven case, but is refraining from making its own evaluations.

“Very many cultural figures are stating their opinions. Unlike them, we cannot state our opinion on judicial cases. We have no right to do that, but we know all the opinions of cultural figures well, we are familiar with them, and we are taking them into account,” Peskov said.

When asked whether the Kremlin feels “public tension” on this case, he said, “No, we don’t feel public tension.”

He also declined to comment on the hearing of the case being held on Friday.