The Russian government has appealed to Interpol to track down a celebrated theatre producer as part of a controversial fraud case that many have accused of being politically motivated.
Yekaterina Voronova is accused of conspiring to steal more than 68 million rubles ($1.2 million) in government funds.
Six other high-profile Russian artists — including prominent director Kirill Serebrennikov — have already been arrested as part of an ongoing investigation. Voronova, who had left the country on a private trip before the case began, is rumoured to be in Latvia.
In a statement to Russian news outlet RIA Novosti, Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office said that officials had asked Interpol to declare an international search. It also confirmed that it would consider filing an extradition order once Voronova had been located.
Moscow City Court has already approved the decision to arrest the producer in absentia.
The allegations against Voronova date back to her involvement with the Seventh Studio theatre group, a non-profit organization founded by Serebrennikov in 2012.
Investigators claim that the group accepted government money to stage a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but that the show never went ahead. Five of the defendants deny the charges, with Serebrennikov maintaining that the production was staged more than 15 times in Moscow, Paris and St Petersburg.
The group’s former accountant, Nina Maslyaeva, pleaded guilty to the charges. She has since reached a deal with the Russian Prosecutor’s Office.
The case has sparked outrage in Russia’s cultural circles, with Serebrennikov’s supporters condemning the case as politically motivated. Many have alleged that the accusations are part of a Kremlin-sponsored “crackdown on the arts,” fuelled by anger against the progress Moscow theatre where Serebrennikov worked, the Gogol Centre.