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Censorship Again: Russian Officials Ban Distribution of Film Based on Book by Litvinenko

Source: (info), 16/02/12

· Freedom of expression

The Ministry of Culture canceled its decision to permit distribution of the film “Assassination of Russia,” a documentary about the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings, and four other films made by independent documentary filmmakers.

The BBC Russian service was told of the decision by Vadim Korovin, general director of the Lancelot video company, which in December acquired the rights to distribute the films within Russia.

According to Korovin, the Ministry suspended his distribution license on 2 February. A letter signed by Deputy Minister of Culture Ekaterina Chukovskaya states that Korovin does not have contracts with the production companies authorizing the transfer of rights to screen their films. His license will remain suspended until such contracts are provided, reports, quoting BBC Russian Service.

“Censorship—the real kind—is being activated in our country,” said Korovin. He said an assistant to the Deputy Minister of Culture personally informed him that in order to reinstate his distribution license, he must provide the consent of all those involved in the films’ production, including the directors, producers, and other participants in the filmmaking process.

“Assassination of Russia” was made in 2002 by French documentary filmmakers on the basis of a book by Alexander Litvinenko and Yury Felshtinsky, titled “Blowing up Russia: Terror from Within.” It was shown in Moscow six times, with Boris Berezovsky acting as the film’s sponsor. In 2006, Litvinenko died in London from radioactive polonium poisoning.

“This film casts doubt on the legitimacy of Putin’s rise to power in 1999 and, by extension, on the legitimacy of his rule as a whole,” reads an announcement on the distributor’s website. “Multiple attempts to show the film in public were impeded by secret services. Copies of the videotapes were confiscated at customs in 2003. Until recently the film has been accessible only to skilled internet users. Only now, under conditions of the utmost political turbulence, has it become possible to show the most scandalous documentary film in recent Russian history.”

The first screening of “Assassination of Russia” took place 25 January at the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center. Afterwards, it was shown at the Teatr.doc art studio and the club Tsvet nochi. Lancelot made plans to release the film on DVD.

Korovin held talks about showing “Assassination of Russia” with several movie theaters. “Some declined for political reasons, fearing problems,” he said. Other theaters, he said, doubted the film’s commercial success: “You guarantee us a full house—we’ll show it, who cares.”

Korovin wasn’t counting on recouping his expenses. “For me, this is above all a public and political act,” he explained. Last year he launched the online store and the project “Rosagit” in support of Alexei Navalny. The businessman says he is prepared for possible acts of repression against him.
Rights in Russia,
20 Feb 2012, 10:04