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Peskov warns any threats against director of controversial film Matilda inadmissible

Prominent Russian film director Alexei Uchitel has earlier filed two requests with the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office

MOSCOW, February 8. /TASS/. Threats by anonymous extremists against the crew of the upcoming Matilda historical drama film about Russia’s last czar are inadmissible, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

"The case is that [film director Alexei] Uchitel is indeed subjected to attacks by an organization that calls itself "Christian State - Holy Russia." We had special consultations: this organization is not registered with the Justice Ministry. So, in fact, this concerns the threats by anonymous extremists," Peskov stressed. "Such actions are absolutely inadmissible," he said.

Peskov recalled that Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his state of the nation address that aggressive reaction resulting in vandalism and the violation of law is absolutely unacceptable. "The president said that the state will respond harshly to these manifestations," Peskov said. The filmmakers of Matilda are currently subjected to these manifestations, he added.

"Certainly, this is a two-way road and there should be mutual responsibility: one side should clearly explain that it has no plans to offend someone’s feelings and the other one should avoid any attempts to punish for pressure on the culture and mass media outlets," he said. Peskov also quoted Putin who said that "no one can bar anyone from thinking freely and openly voicing their position."

Prominent Russian film director Alexei Uchitel has earlier filed two requests with the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office. In the first request, addressed to Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika, Uchitel asks "to shield the movie’s crew and distributors from further threats and other unlawful actions by radically-minded individuals" and also from "the libelous suppositions" of State Duma member Natalia Poklonskaya that are being disseminated in public. In the second statement, signed by his lawyer, the director asks to probe the "Christian state - Holy Russia" Orthodox public organization for extremism following threats to the film crew and potential viewers.

The film, slated for release on October 25, 2017, has stirred up controversy among ultra Russian Orthodox Christians because it focuses on the relationship between Czar Nicholas II and the famous ballerina Mathilde Kschessinskaya. Despite the fact that the screenplay has not been made public, critics say that the movie tarnishes the reputation of the last czar.

Earlier, it was reported that the organization "Christian State - Holy Russia" has sent nearly a thousand letters to the homes and business addresses of cinema owners, urging them to ban the showing of Matilda - something filmmakers are outraged about.

"We don’t want our culture to come under the yoke of new censorship, regardless of what influential forces are initiating it. We want to live in a secular democratic country, where censorship is not only prohibited by the Constitution, but also prohibited in real life," the statement said.

Last month, State Duma member and Crimea’s ex-prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya sent a request to the Prosecutor General to re-examine how the budget funds were allocated for Matilda. Poklonskaya said that the film script should be examined by an expert committee made up of professional historians and members of the Russian Orthodox Church, since the film’s main character is "officially canonized."

The filmmakers reiterate in their statement, that the "situation around Matilda coincides with a number of other recent clashes in the field of culture - the prohibition of the opera, Tannhauser, the violent attack on Vadim Siddur’s exhibition, dissatisfaction with the Hermitage exhibition policies. In all these cases, there is a visible force of the so-called Russian Orthodox activists, but the official Church does not interfere."