MOSCOW, April 8 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court on Monday overturned a lower court’s ruling to extend house arrest of the Gogol Center theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, who stands charged with embezzlement, and released him on travel restrictions, RAPSI reports from the courtroom.

Extension of house arrest of ex-official of Russia’s Culture Ministry and current director of the Russian Academic Youth Theater Sophia Apfelbaum, ex-Seventh Studio head Yury Itin until July 4 was reversed as well. Ex-general producer Alexey Malobrodsky was earlier placed on travel restrictions.

Producer Yekaterina Voronova, has been put on the international wanted list and arrested in absentia as part of the case.

All the defendants have pleaded not guilty calling charges against them pointless and absurd. Moreover, Serebrennikov and Malobrodsky lay the blame on ex-chief accountant of Seventh Studio stage company Nina Maslyayeva. The woman is being tried separately. She has pleaded guilty.

In January, Maslyayeva confirmed cash out transactions while giving testimony in court. She said that Seventh Studio managers initially expected that they could make money from Platforma project oriented to the promotion of art. Moreover, the woman stated that the stage company was meant to win a tender for the project realization with the assistance of then official of Sophia Apfelbaum. Maslyayeva also testified that all defendants were cut in on and ordered her to cash in funds allocated by the state for the project.

Serebrennikov was arrested in late August 2017 and then placed under house arrest. In early November, Moscow’s Basmanny District Court seized assets belonging to Serebrennikov including apartment, car, and money in the amount of more than 360,000 rubles ($5,300), over €60,000, and $4,000.

Investigators believe that he was an organizer of the budget money embezzlement. He allegedly created Seventh Studio stage company to actualize Platforma project for promotion of art and called alleged accomplices into the organization. He pleaded not guilty.

According to investigation, the defendants have embezzled 133 million rubles ($2 million) of 214 million rubles ($3.2 million) allocated from the budget to Seventh Studio for promotion of Russian contemporary art.

Investigators claim that Itin, Malobrodsky, and Maslyayeva were falsifying data for the Platforma project’s plans in 2011-2014 on the theater director’s request. This data was provided to the Ministry of Culture as the rationale for financing from the state budget.

Apfelbaum, according to investigators, signed contracts on state grants in the amount of more than 214 million rubles with Serebrennikov’s stage company on behalf of the Russian Culture Ministry, and provided further agreement of received reporting documents, which contained overstated information on quantity and cost of the held events, thus abetting the embezzlement.

Apfelbaum admitted that she controlled the movement of cash but denied involvement in the crime.