Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko did not ask a Russian theater and film director currently facing fraud charges in Moscow to make a “propaganda film” about Ukraine, according to a presidential spokesman.
Kirill Serebrennikov, an acclaimed Russian theater director, reportedly claimed earlier that Poroshenko had offered him state funding to make a film about Ukraine. Since then, however, representatives of both the Ukrainian president and Serebrennikov have denied that this story is true.
“Neither president Petro Poroshenko, nor people authorized by him, have approached Kirill Serebrennikov with work proposals,” Yarema Dukh, the foreign media coordinator at Ukraine’s Presidential Administration, told Hromadske. He also alleged that the story was fabricated by the Russian security services.
The “propaganda film” story first emerged on September 3, when one of the director’s friends, German actor Lars Eidinger, published a letter supposedly authored by Serebrennikov on Instagram. Eidinger claimed that Serebrennikov asked him to release the letter “in case he would be arrested.”
Last month, the director’s fear came true. On August 22, Serebrennikov was detained by the Russian Investigative Committee on embezzlement charges. He is now under house arrest until October 19.
“Since the beginning of the criminal case I have heard various speculations in my address,” the letter reads. “I even received an offer from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to head one of the Ukrainian theaters and shoot a propaganda film with the financial support of the state.”
In the letter, Serebrennikov also reportedly said that he is grateful for the attention but is not planning to leave Russia.
But Serebrennikov’s lawyer, Dmitry Kharitonov, denies the letter’s veracity.
“There was no letter from Kirill Serebrennikov to Lars Eidinger,” Kharitonov told the Meduza news site. “Kirill did not send him [any letter] and did not ask for any help. Neither this year, nor last year. We view this as a provocation.”
Eidinger has since deleted the Instagram post with the letter.
The rumored offer from Poroshenko is the latest development in a case with enormous public resonance for Russia’s creative intelligentsia. Over 70 prominent Russians, many from the country’s art scene, have already publicly spoken out for the director.
Serebrennikov stands accused of embezzling a state subsidy of 68 million rubles (over $1 million) provided to “The Seventh Studio,” a non-profit organization founded by the director, between 2011 and 2014.
He denies the accusations, and says he is confident that “justice will prevail” and he will be able to prove he is a “decent person.”
Many believe that the case is politically motivated. Serebrennikov’s works, which explore life in today’s Russia, are frequently viewed as controversial.
Regardless of their veracity, claims that Serebrennikov was offered a job by Poroshenko could potentially be harmful to the director’s reputation. Since 2014, when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and backed a separatist insurgency in its Donbas region, Russian state media have actively attacked the Ukrainian government, at times even accusing it of fascism.
/Text by Maria Romanenko