Russian film director Sokurov being probed for 'fraud'
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Saint Petersburg (AFP)
Russian film director Alexander Sokurov, whose films include "Russian Ark" and "Faust", said Thursday he was being probed for alleged fraud in his foundation to help young filmmakers.
The director, who has publicly criticised President Vladimir Putin, drew comparisons with the trial of theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov for fraud, which supporters say is part of a crackdown.
Sokurov is known for "Russian Ark," which was filmed in the Hermitage Museum using a single shot, and "Faust," which won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2011.
He is also known for his support for young filmmakers -- particularly those from the deprived North Caucasus region -- and heads a foundation called "Example of Intonation" to help new directors.
Police in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg, where Sokurov is based, told AFP they were "carrying out checks" into the foundation after a member of the public reported "possible illegal activities."
The 67-year-old director said on Facebook that the FSB security service was involved and that his phone was being tapped.
He claimed he was targeted after questioning Putin at a meeting in December 2016 about Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is imprisoned in Russia on a terrorism charge.
Sokurov said the checks began several months ago and intensified after a former employee reported alleged wrongdoing.
He said the man had failed to pay back money loaned to him by the director and the foundation and was apparently trying to escape punishment.
"People have told me several times that my case is similar to that of Kirill Serebrennikov, whom I respect," he said.
Serebrennikov, one of Russia's most popular and prolific theatre and film directors, is currently on trial for allegedly embezzling 133 million rubles ($1.98 million at the current rate) of state funding, which he insists was spent on his productions.
Sokurov in 2011 talked about Putin's role in helping to find funding for his film "Faust" despite the fact that the president "has never been a friend of mine."
In 2014, months before Russia's annexation of Crimea, the director wrote a letter to Putin asking him not to escalate the situation in Ukraine.
At an awards ceremony last year he slammed Russian police's rough treatment of young protesters at opposition rallies.
© 2018 AFP