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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Festival invites ire and a lawsuit

With the first payment to the Russian government due Saturday on the loan for the aborted "Red Square Invites" festival, it is becoming clear that the closing of the financially srapped festival was just a precursor to a long and rancorous fight between organizers and Russian federal and Moscow city officials.


Though the festival's organizer, Oman Sokhadze, insisted Tuesday that he would be able to make the 120-million-ruble payment, money is just one aspect of the scandal now being played out vividly in the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets.


Sergei Stankevich, an advisor to President Boris Yeltsin, was closely involved with the festival, but recently divorced himself from Sokhadze, calling their partnership "a mistake". Stung by Stankevich's about-face, Sokhadze accused the politician of being a careerist, also alleging that he had not yet accounted for a sum of $10, 000 cash Stankevich had received in London.


Sokhadze, visibly angry, said that he was constantly forced to overcome arcane bureaucratic obstacles while preparing for the festival. He was especially critical of the chairman of the Moscow City Cultural Committee, Igor Bugaev, whom he characterized as a "party bureaucrat having nothing to do with culture", and the head of the Mossoviet Cultural Council, Alexander Ushakov, whose daughter Sokhadze was coerced onto the festival's payroll, although she never worked for it.


The beleaguered Sokhadze saved his strongest words for Moskovsky Komsomolets, which dubbed the festival, the "Soap Opera on Red Square". Allegations contained in a recent article in that newspaper prompted the prosecutor's office to seize the books of Sokhadze's company, Interteatr, and


conduct a search of his apartment.


The article's author, Alexander Minkin, a theater-critic-turned-investigative-correspondent, has repeatedly used that paper's pages to attack Sokhadze personally and professionally. These articles, some of which are written in theatricalized dialogue, allege that Sokhadze is guilty of lying repeatedly to cover up financial wrongdoing. One account implied that Sokhadze had threatened to kill a former bookkeeper.


Sokhadze has threatened to sue both Moskovsky Komsomolets and Minkin.