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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Theater Cancels Chechnya Festival

The Kinocenter movie theater on Wednesday refused to screen hard-hitting documentaries about Chechnya for a film festival, saying the 18 films from six countries were "unacceptable" and "too much politically charged."

Festival organizers accused the authorities of intimidating Kinocenter into canceling the event and promised to show all of the films at the Sakharov Museum instead.

Kinocenter found that "several foreign films are unacceptable to be shown," theater manager Vladimir Medvedev said in a statement Wednesday.

"We don't mind Russian films, but foreign films have anti-Russian tendencies, and we don't need that at our Kinocenter," he told Ekho Moskvy radio. "We are not into politics. We just show movies. We don't show films linked to politics, especially when they are linked to the Russian government and the president.

"We have good relations with all the top power structures. Why should we spoil our relations?" he said.

Medvedev said he particularly objected to "Assassination of Russia," a documentary financed by Boris Berezovsky that accuses Russian secret services of masterminding the 1999 apartment bombings that killed several hundred people in Moscow and other cities.

"Berezovsky is not needed here. We would rather show films that bring Russia fame," he said.

Yury Samodurov, director of the Sakharov Museum, an organizer of the festival, said Kinocenter officials had asked him whether he had cleared the program with Vladislav Surkov, a deputy head of the presidential administration.

"I have the impression that Kinocenter was pressured into refusing to take part in the festival," Samodurov said at a news conference.

The traveling festival was to have opened at Kinocenter on Thursday, after making stops in London, Washington and New York. It will now be held at the Sakharov Museum at 57 Zemlyanoi Val.

Most of the films show the first and second Chechen conflicts through the eyes of foreign correspondents. In one of the films, "Babitsky's War," Radio Liberty's Russian correspondent Andrei Babitsky interviews Russian soldiers, rebels and ordinary Chechens to expose the suffering, fear and desperation of those living in Chechnya. Another film, "Terror in Moscow," is a chilling British television documentary about the Dubrokva theater hostage crisis last October.

In addition to the Sakharov Museum, the free three-day festival is organized by Berezovsky's Foundation for Civil Freedoms, the Holocaust Foundation, the Memorial human rights group and a number of other Russian human rights groups.