On Thursday evening, around 30 men wearing face coverings disrupted the showing of ‘Mr. Jones’ by Polish Director Agnieszka Holland. They are said to have shouted that the show was over and accused those in attendance of being fascists.
A video of the event posted on Twitter by the Paris-based arm of the organization, Memorial France, shows the men standing in front of the screen, yelling and pointing at the audience watching the film. Police then arrived at the scene and apparently handcuffed the doors to the entrance, shutting the group’s staff inside for hours.
According to the group’s spokesperson, Natalya Petrova, the men left the premises before the police arrived, who then began questioning the senior members of the group. “Of course [the attack] was against Memorial and not the film. The film was just a pretext,” she claimed.
‘Mr. Jones’ tells the story of journalist Gareth Jones, who was one of the first reporters from the West to cover the Ukrainian famine, known as the Holodomor in Kiev. Between 1932 and 1933, an estimated 7-10 million Ukrainians are thought to have died according to an estimate by the United Nations. Ukraine has said the Holodomor represents an act of genocide perpetrated against the country by the Soviet Union, claims which Russia has rejected.
The Memorial group is listed as a ‘foreign agent’ by Russia’s Ministry of Justice over its links to overseas funding, with the nonprofit organization being hit by further restrictions last week. The Kremlin increased the annual reporting requirements for nonprofits that have been handed the designation, meaning they must report yearly to Moscow on their activities and finances, as well as events they have held.
Tatiana Glushkova, the head of Memorial, said at the time that the new law will make the situation “significantly worse” as the authorities can ban any activities on any grounds. “Any delay in submitting a report, even by one day, threatens a fine of 100,000 rubles (about $1,315) or more,” she explained. “Being labeled as a foreign agent means that a significant portion of their small budget will be spent on fulfilling the requirements of this very law.”
Moscow police have so far refused to comment on the incident.
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