General Producer of the Seventh Studio Speaks of Serebrennikov Case, Briefly
Since the spring of 2017, the case of Sedmaya Studia (The Seventh Studio), which is also called the “theatre case”, is still going on. The persons of interest in the case are artistic director of Gogol Center Kirill Serebrennikov, former CEO of the Seventh Studio Yuri Itin, director of RAMT Sofya Apfelbaum, main producer Alexei Malobrodsky and former chief accountant Nina Maslyaeva.
They are accused of embezzling 68 million rubles allocated by the state for the implementation of the project called Platform under supervision of Gogol Center. Malobrodsky is kept in a pre-trial detention center, the rest of the defendants are under house arrest. Only the former chief accountant, Maslyaeva, who admitted her guilt, concluded a deal with the investigation. It was after her testimony that the Investigative Committee detained Serebrennikov at night during a movie set.
Another person of interest in the case, the former main producer of the Seventh Studio, Yekaterina Voronova, had left Russia even before the case was initiated. The court arrested her in absentia, and the Prosecutor's Office asked Interpol to place her on the wanted list. Voronova decided to disclose her vision of the case of The Seventh Studio. Her letter was published by Meduza. Russiangate briefly retells its essence.
WHO IS YEKATERINA VORONOVA
Yekaterina Voronova worked as theatrical producer in the Seventh Studio and the Platforma project from 2011 to 2014. In the letter, she tells that she wants to protect her name and achieve justice, and calls the accusations absurd. She is afraid of returning to Russia and going to the Investigation Committee, as she is arrested in absentia.
As the main producer, Voronova was responsible for drafting statements on the payment of salaries to employees, payment of fees, reimbursements for overtimes, payments for requisites and other goods. The payments were made from the accounts of the organization.
WHAT IS THE PLATFORMA PROJECT
Platforma is a project of Serebrennikov, which is a symbiosis of theater, music, dance and media art. It emerged after the meeting of President Medvedev with cultural figures. The main goal of Platforma is to provide young choreographers, directors, composers and media artists with a platform for experiments.
During this time, according to Voronova, Platforma released six large multi-genre events, 15 theater projects, six dance performances. It prepared 32 concert programs, presented 30 separate performances in the framework of three media festivals, held more than 50 discussions. The project was implemented at the expense of gratuitous and irrevocable grants from the Ministry of Culture, allocated specifically for Platforma.
The money was distributed in accordance with the estimates of projects, on the basis of contracts with organizations, entrepreneurs and artists. The documents were transferred to the accounting department; the texts of contracts and the payment procedure were discussed and agreed with chief accountant Nina Maslyaeva. Altogether, 40 to 60 people, who were paid monthly, worked for Platforma at different times. They signed on the receipt of the salary in the relevant documents.
WHO IS NINA MASLYAEVA
Maslyaeva worked as the chief accountant of ANO The Seventh Studio. It was she who would receive the bills for payment and draft agreements for approval; she also gave out cash for various expenses.
As Voronova tells, Itin introduced Maslyaeva as “a person who understands the financial and accounting reporting of cultural institutions,” and noted that she also put together a financial report for the Ministry of Culture, and made the necessary amendments to it. According to Voronova, Maslyaeva was the only person engaged in this.
“THE SLUSH FUND”
In the summer of 2014, Voronova, by agreement with Serebrennikov and Itin, decided to conduct an audit of the Seventh Studio. To do this, an independent audit company was hired.
After the audit, numerous violations were found in the accounting records management, payroll and other aspects of accounting.
When checking payrolls, names of unknown people who allegedly received money were found. For example, Maslyaeva’s daughter was officially working in the Seventh studio, and she was paid a salary obviously, although in fact she never worked there.
In the documents, there were some people, but the salaries were received by completely different ones. The salary that was officially paid was very different, and the acquired property was not put on balance.
Also, the audit found payroll slips, in which there were signatures of both Voronova and other employees. The workers themselves considered their signatures to be forged: they did not remember signing these documents.
Maslyaeva’s discovered “slush fund” was supposed to be destroyed after the restoration of the books, in order to avoid confusion in the documents.
THE CHIEF ACCOUNTANT RESIGNED ON HER OWN ACCORD
Maslyaeva was asked to help correct the mistakes and discrepancies identified by the audit. “Cooperation did not work out.” She responded to letters slowly, did not fully answer the questions and did not always help contacting the firms whose contacts she only would have. After Maslyaeva was asked to pay for the services of the audit company from her own funds, because of “the terrible state of affairs as a result of her work,” she wrote a letter of resignation at her own accord.
“I was horrified how many violations were detected during the audit. In addition, our internal documents recorded the expenditure of a large amount of cash, and I did not know how to explain its appearance in such an amount in the first place, since I did not know how Nina Leonidovna received them – and we did not communicate with her already,” writes Voronova.
At the end of 2014, the project Platforma was preparing to close and leave the office at Vinzavod. That is where all the documents were kept. Since there no one could store the documents, Voronova asked: “Who now can be interested in our internal accounting?”. She decided to destroy the documents. It was the papers that contained information on spending of Platforma’s cash within those three and a half years. Voronova claims that they were used exclusively for the needs of the project. The destroyed documents could confirm the innocence of both Voronova and other persons of interest in the case.
VORONOVA RECKONS MASLYAEVA SLANDERED THE PERSONS OF INTEREST
Voronova writes that chief accountant of the Seventh Studio Nina Maslyaeva specifically gave false testimony against “innocent people, including me.” By doing that, she tried to avoid her own criminal liability.
According to her, none of the employees of Platforma could uncontrollably spend the money of the Seventh studio for their needs and did not have free access to it.
“I would like to add separately that Kirill Serebrennikov has never received any money from the Seventh Studio, except his monthly salary of the art director, which has not changed for the whole time, the director's fees for the staged performances or other events (after they were featured) and the theatrical program curator fee in 2012”, said Voronova.