“They did absolutely nothing wrong, they just put on a show and they have already been in prison for a year,” denounced Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov regarding the two artists judged for “justification of terrorism” in Moscow. While presenting his film Limonov, the Ballad at the 77th Cannes Film Festival, the filmmaker held up portraits of the two women in front of the media. The filmmaker left Russia after the start of the war in Ukraine.

Director Evgenia Berkovitch, 39, a former student of Serebrennikov, and playwright Svetlana Petriïtchouk, 44, were arrested on May 5, 2023 for “justifying terrorism” and have been on trial since Monday before a Moscow court. The two women face 7 years in prison. As they entered the courtroom, the two women smiled, according to an AFP journalist on site. The police officers present prohibited the public from applauding the accused as a sign of support.

After a day of deliberations, the trial was adjourned until Tuesday morning. The lawyer for one of the two accused, Ksenia Karpinskaïa, told AFP that their loved ones were “very affected” by their incarceration for more than a year.

The accusation concerns a 2020 show, Finist, the Clear Falcon, telling the story of Russians recruited on the internet by Islamists in Syria and leaving to join them to marry them. “I put on this show with the aim of preventing terrorism,” Yevgenia Berkovitch told the Moscow court on Monday. “It turns out that Genia (Evguénia editor’s note) Berkovitch is one of my former students (…) and she is in prison for completely invented accusations,” Serebrennikov explained about this recognized artist, who had also publicly expressed against the offensive in Ukraine.

“They only put on a show which, I remind you, received a national theater prize and the fact that they are accused without foundation is pure sadism,” he then said to the AFP. Asked about the demonstrations in Georgia against a Russian-inspired law, which targets opponents, Serebrennikov replied that he was “enthusiastic” about this popular movement.

He warns against this so-called law “against foreign influence” which has provoked in Russia an unprecedented wave of repression against NGOs, the media and culture. Considered one of the most daring Russian artists of his generation, the director and director benefited for a time from the favors of those in power. Having become troublesome for his anti-conservative and pro-LGBT positions, he ended up under house arrest in 2017. The sentence was served on him during the filming of Leto, presented at Cannes in 2018.

The director is putting the finishing touches on a film that adapts Olivier Guez’s book, The Disappearance of Josef Mengele, and considering what his first post-Ukraine invasion work will be. “Everything I do today has a political resonance, whether I like it or not I end up being plunged into this war, into the bloodiest and dirtiest of politics.”