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‘Our claim that Masliayeva doesn't tell the truth has been confirmed’ Defense attorney explains what's changed in case against top Russian theater directors

Meduza
Sofia Apfelbaum (left) and her attorney, Irina Poverinova, in the Moscow City Court. November 27, 2017
Sofia Apfelbaum (left) and her attorney, Irina Poverinova, in the Moscow City Court. November 27, 2017
Mikhail Pochuyev / TASS / Vide Press

On April 8, the Moscow City Court released three defendants in the “Seventh Studio” case from house arrest. Kirill Serebrennikov, Sofia Apfelbaum, and Yury Itin were instead permitted to sign a pledge not to leave Russia until their cases are concluded. On April 11, Moscow’s Meshchansky Court was scheduled to issue a sentence for Seventh Studio’s former accountant, Nina Masliayeva. Special procedures were applied to her trial because she had confessed to embezzlement, reached a plea deal, and given testimony against the case’s other defendants. However, a judge has decided to refer Masliayeva’s case back to prosecutors due to “violations in the plea agreement” and violations of Masliayeva’s right to legal defense. Irina Poverinova, the attorney for Russian Academic Youth Theater (RAMT) director Sofia Apfelbaum, told Meduza about what this new development in Masliayeva’s case could mean for her own client.

The court’s decision about [former Seventh Studio accountant Nina] Masliayeva doesn’t mean much for our case. Her fate runs in parallel to us; we don’t intersect because she’s a fantasizer who promised someone she would tell a particular story in exchange for being permitted not to live under guard. She made a plea deal before the trial: Masliayeva confessed guilt and slandered everybody, but the court didn’t believe her and sent her case back for further examination. It turns out our claim that Masliayeva doesn’t tell the truth has been confirmed.

The court didn’t believe her because there was nothing to prove her sick fantasies. And the court didn’t have a choice: when a person comes in and says they stole something, you still have to confirm that claim. She did not plead guilty to stealing 133 million rubles, and that’s also the sum attributed to our clients because the case encompasses all of us. She’s only talking about five million. To demonstrate that 133 million rubles were stolen, she would have had to explain who stole them and where that money went afterward. She couldn’t think up anything like that — I mean, we’re not talking about three kopeks. All of this shows that she doesn’t know anything, and it’s impossible to invent what they’re trying to invent.

This embezzlement also can’t be confirmed using any of the case documents. The investigators didn’t calculate salaries or expenses; they just shoved all that under ‘embezzlement.’ What on earth is this?

From day one, we have been saying that Masliayeva is lying and that there was no embezzlement whatsoever. Now, the court has listened to us, and that’s in part because we have expressed our position consistently since the preliminary investigation and confirmed it using a large quantity of additional documentation, video footage, and witness testimony.

On April 12 alone, Oleg Nazarov [the former technical director at Seventh Studio] testified and submitted a large number of documents proving that this was an enormous project, and a lot of money was spent on it. The investigation said that of the 214 million rubles allocated by the government, 133 million were stolen. What kind of show could you have put on with the rest of the money? None at all.

On Monday, April 15, the court will announce a ruling calling for an additional inspection. After listening to the witnesses and reading through the case materials, the judge began to realize that the 133 million the prosecution says were stolen are totally absent from that evidence. And the court had this idea to recount all of it. The defense believes that an inspection is necessary to evaluate these shows according to the documentation we have presented, according to witness testimony, and to demonstrate that the embezzlement of which our clients have been accused would simply have been impossible.

This entire time, we have tried to question as many of the witnesses who provided documents as possible, and we have been able to tie them to the case. This additional inspection will be based on those documents as well. I would prefer to call in even more witnesses, perhaps even to question the producers who worked down the line along with the lighting and sound directors, but the court decided that we have heard enough to conduct this inspection.

When the court orders this inspection, that order will take legal force, and it will be sent to the organizations the court has designated for conducting the inspection. And then those organizations will get to work. It’s not yet clear how long that work will take. It’s possible that we will be back in hearings within as little as a few weeks.

Recorded by Sasha Sulim

Translated by Hilah Kohen