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Russia pulls British comedy 'The Death of Stalin'

2 min

Moscow (AFP)

Russia's culture ministry on Tuesday withdrew permission for the release of British film "The Death of Stalin" later this week after officials and top arts figures labelled it offensive and "extremist".

Armando Iannucci's comedy, which had a world premiere in September, takes a satirical look at the power scramble after Stalin's 1953 death and includes actors playing historical figures such as World War II commander Marshal Georgy Zhukov.

"The distribution certificate for the film 'The Death of Stalin' has been withdrawn," a spokeswoman for the culture ministry told AFP.

The ministry's press service said the film contained "information whose distribution is legally banned in Russia", according to the RIA news agency.

The Anglo-French film was set for a limited release in cinemas from Thursday after local distributors Volga Film gained an 18+ certificate from the culture ministry.

This prompted a wave of protests from conservative figures although it got good reviews in Russian broadsheets.

On Monday, culture ministry officials and film directors attended a private viewing.

Yelena Drapeko, deputy head of the lower house of parliament's culture committee, told RBK news site she had "never seen anything so disgusting in my life".

"(The audience), me included, saw elements of extremism in the film," she said.

Afterwards 21 people signed a letter urging Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky to delay the release and check if it broke any laws.

The signatories included Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov and Marshal Zhukov's daughter Era, TASS news agency reported.

The letter slammed the film as "lampooning the history of our country" and "blackening the memory of our citizens who conquered fascism".

The film contained elements "that can be assessed as extremist and aimed at humiliating Russian people," the letter reportedly said.

The Soviet Union's anthem was used in an "offensive way," it added.

It also called for the release to be delayed because next month sees the 75th anniversary of Soviet victory against the Nazis in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists earlier Tuesday that he was not aware of the controversy and that the matter was the prerogative of the culture ministry.

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