A Moscow court on Friday convicted acclaimed Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov of fraud, in a long-running case that critics slam as fabricated.
The judge ruled that Serebrennikov, 50, and two co-defendants were guilty of misappropriating 129 million rubles ($2 million) of state funds that financed a theatrical project.
"Serebrennikov, (Yury) Itin, and (Konstantin) Malobrodsky carried out actions directed at personal enrichment" and acted as a group to mislead employees of the culture ministry, judge Olesya Mendeleyeva said, according to an AFP correspondent in the court.
A fourth defendant in the case, Sofia Apfelbaum, was "unaware" of the fraud, the judge said.
The prosecution earlier this week asked the court to give Serebrennikov a six-year prison sentence, but the judge can take a long time to reach sentencing during a verdict reading.
Serebrennikov, who heads one of Moscow's top theatre venues, the Gogol Centre, was arrested in 2017 and the case against him nearly fell apart last year when a judge handed it back to the prosecution due to "inconsistencies".
It restarted with a new judge, and the amount of the alleged fraud was slightly revised from 133 million rubles to 129 million rubles.
The judge on Friday backed claims by the prosecution that Serebrennikov orchestrated theft of state money allocated to the Platforma project he ran between 2011 and 2014.
Serebrennikov and his co-defendants insisted they are innocent. The director this week called the accusations that he stole the money "laughable".