Theatre producer accused of fraud in Kirill Serebrennikov case releases open letter

Theatre producer accused of fraud in Kirill Serebrennikov case releases open letter
Voronova's co-accused, celebrated artistic director Kirill Serebrennikov. Image: / Facebook

29 November 2017

A Russian theatre producer charged with embezzling state funds has written an open letter claiming that she won’t get a free trial if she returns to Russia.

In the letter, which was was published by Russian news outlet Meduza, Yekaterina Voronova calls allegations against her “unfair and absurd.”

Voronova stands accused of conspiring to steal 68 million rubles ($1.2 million) of state funds from the Seventh Studio theatre company, where she previously worked as an executive producer. Investigators claim that the group received the money to stage a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but that the scheduled performances never took place.

Six other people have been accused as part of the case, including artistic director Kirill Serebrennikov, Alexei Malobrodsky, and the head of the Russian Academic Youth Theatre, Sofiya Apfelbaum. A number of commentators have denounced the case as politically motivated, suggesting that the Russian government is responsible for a crackdown on progressive theatres such as the Gogol Center, where Serebrennikov and Malobrodsky have both worked.

All of the accused have pled not guilty, with the exception of Seventh Studio’s former accountant, Nina Maslyaeva. In her letter, Voronova claimed that Maslyaeva had given false testimony in order to cover up her own “criminal liability.”

“There is no evidence of this theft supposedly committed by Serebrennikov, Malobrodsky and myself, except for the word of Seventh Studio’s chief accountant, [Nina Maslyaeva],” Voronova wrote. “This [testimony] isn’t true, and hopes to hurt innocent people as a way to avoid her own criminal liability.”

Voronova claimed that evidence of Maslyaeva’s financial mismanagement had come to light during an audit in 2014. Documents revealed that wages had been paid incorrectly, and cash payments had been made to unknown employees. They also showed that Maslyaeva had been paying wages to her own daughter, Voronova said.

“Our internal documents showed the expenditure of a large amount of cash which I could not account for in that volume,” she wrote. “I was horrified.”

“We expected [Maslyaeva’s] assistance in correcting these errors and inaccuracies. But In October 2014, Nina decided to resign.”

Voronova admitted responsibility for destroying documents relating to the group’s expenditure, but maintained that any paperwork would prove her innocence.

The producer, who is currently abroad, also said that she would likely return to Russia — but cast doubt on whether the trial would be free and fair.

“[Maslyaeva’s] testimony has been accepted by the investigation, despite evidence which shows it is a lie. How can we now expect a fair trial in this case?”, she wrote.

“I believe that we need to defend ourselves and prove our innocence as if the most honest, objective and unbiased court in the world are waiting for us. To think and act differently means to become participants in judicial arbitrariness and thereby support it.

“We must follow the same mantra that Kirill Serebrennikov told his students and employees: do not lie and do not be afraid.

Voronova had left Russia on a private trip when the case began. The Russian government has since appealed to Interpol to designate the producer as internationally wanted.