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How Russian investigators came for the ‘Seventh Studio’ theater crew The three-month timeline of police raids, interrogations, confessions, and testimonies

Source: Meduza
Zurab Dzhavakhadze / ТАСС / Scanpix / LETA

In the early morning hours on August 22, federal investigators detained stage director Kirill Serebrennikov in an ongoing fraud case. According to officials, the celebrated director organized the theft of “no less than 68 million rubles [$1.2 million]” allocated to the “Platforma” theater program. Police detained Serebrennikov in St. Petersburg on the set of his new film about Soviet rock legend Viktor Tsoi. The director was then taken to Moscow for questioning and formal arrest. Meduza reviews the events over the past three months that brought us here.

may 23

On May 23, federal investigators raided Kirill Serebrennikov’s home and his theater, the Gogol Center. Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee said it was investigating the theft of 200 million rubles ($3.4 million) from the state budget that had been allocated to “Seventh Studio,” a theater company created by Serebrennikov. The search order, obtained by Meduza, also identified a separate sum of money in the amount of 66.5 million rubles ($1.1 million). After the raid and interrogation, Serebrennikov was released and required to remain available to police.

may 24

On May 24, police detained the former heads of Seventh Studio, general director Yuri Itin and chief accountant Nina Maslyayeva, on suspicion of defrauding the government.

That same day, at a ceremony held at the Kremlin, actor and director Evgeny Mironov handed Vladimir Putin a letter apparently about Seventh Studio, asking the president why investigators had raided Serebrennikov’s home and theater. Putin responded, “The fools.”

may 25

On May 25, Itin was placed under house arrest. At his hearing, he refused to confess to the charges, admitting however to “negligence.”

may 27

On May 27, a court placed Maslyayeva in pretrial detention. Together with Itin, she was charged with embezzling 1.3 million rubles ($22,000). It’s unclear why this amount differs from the figure in the Investigative Committee’s original press release and its search warrant. (This amount of money would change again, later in the case.) In court, Maslyayeva refused to confess to the allegations, but her lawyer, Pavel Teplukhin, previously said that she was willing to reach a plea bargain with prosecutors.

may 30

On May 30, after three days in pretrial detention, Maslyayeva announced that she was ready to work with the investigators. “I’m not Kirill Serebrennikov and I’m not Yuri Itkin. So there you have it. I’m just an ordinary person — hired staff, and that’s why they threw me in jail. I’m ready for anything. I’ll work with the investigators, if only they let me go,” Maslyayeva told a correspondent from the TV network Dozhd.

June 15

On June 15, during Vladimir Putin’s live marathon TV call-in show, the president told journalists that forcibly raiding a theater is “absurd.”

june 21

On June 21, police arrested Alexey Malobrodsky, the former director of the Gogol Center. At his hearing, prosecutors said state funding for a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” never reached the play. In fact, the performance is still being staged at the Gogol Center. Prosecutors claimed that “testimony both by suspects and several witnesses” confirms Malobrodsky’s guilt. Police say 2.3 million rubles ($39,000) was embezzled from the money allocated to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (This was in addition to the 1.3 million rubles allegedly stolen by Maslyayeva and Itin, bring the total embezzlement figure to 3.6 million rubles, or $60,900.)

July 18

On July 18, at a hearing to extend Maslyayeva’s arrest, a representative of the Investigative Committee stated that she had “yet to fulfill all the obligations of her plea bargain with investigators.” She was then ordered to remain in pretrial detention. The Investigative Committee official also said that Itin “generally refuses to testify, citing Article 51 [of the Russian Constitution, which protects citizens from giving self-incriminating evidence].

aug 7

On August 7, Serebrennikov told the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Russian officials had seized his passport, revoking his ability to leave the country. Federal investigators later revealed that they’d taken his passport back in May during their first raids.

Aug 8

On August 8, Maslyayeva’s confession was read out in a Moscow court. She now claims that she helped Serebrennikov, Malobrodsky, and Itin “cash out funds” allocated to theatrical productions. At her hearing, officials also revealed that the embezzlement allegations had spiked from 3.6 million rubles to 68 million rubles ($1.2 million). At this stage, Serebrennikov was still just a witness in the case.

Aug 22

Federal investigators detained Serebrennikov on August 22 in St. Petersburg, immediately transporting him to Moscow for questioning. The Investigative Committee says the charges against him are the same as the charges against the other Seventh Studio suspects. A court has yet to decide if the director will be released on bail or remanded in custody.

Read Meduza's editorial on the arrest of Kirill Serebrennikov

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