Citing prior criminal cases against the cultural elite, including the deputy director of the Hermitage Museum Mikhail Novikov and former Deputy Culture Minister Grigory Pirumov, Putin asked: “Does anyone working in the cultural sphere get a free pass?”

“The authorities require nothing from Serebrennikov, except for one thing: compliance with the law when using state funds,” Putin said, adding the director’s guilt could only be determined by the court.

Serebrennikov was sentenced to house arrest in August and could face up to 10 years in prison.