The Kremlin on Thursday confirmed Russia had refused a request from Cannes film festival organisers to free director Kirill Serebrennikov from house arrest as his film premiered.
Festival director Thierry Fremaux said at a press conference that the organisers and the French government had pleaded with Moscow to allow Serebrennikov to travel to Cannes for the screening.
Fremaux said President Vladimir Putin had personally told the festival that “Serebrennikov has problems with the judiciary of our country. I would have loved to help but the courts are independent.”
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov the request but denied the reply came directly from the president.
“It’s true the organising committee of the Cannes festival wrote to the foreign ministry with a request to ensure the arrival of Serebrennikov for the festival,” Peskov told journalists.
“And it’s true that a reply was sent through the ministry explaining that as in any country in the world… neither the foreign ministry, nor still less the head of state, has the right, the powers, to influence the decision of judicial or investigative bodies in any way.”
“But it wasn’t directly Putin’s answer,” Peskov added.
Serebrennikov, a renowned film and theatre director, has been confined to his Moscow flat since August on charges of defrauding the state of more than $1 million (830,000 euro) in arts funding.
He has denounced the charges as “absurd”.
His film Leto, or Summer, based on the story of cult late-Soviet rock band Kino debuted at Cannes on Thursday. He finished editing the film while already under house arrest.
Peskov spoke shortly after Serebrennikov’s co-defendant, the Gogol Centre’s former general producer Alexei Malobrodsky suffered heart problems in court after it denied him a transfer from jail to house arrest.