EXCLUSIVE: As support for Roman Abramovich Tchaikovsky’s wife takes place this week at the Cannes Film Festival, the French Ministry of Economy and Finance has clarified its position regarding films supported by sanctioned oligarchs.
While the department said it could not discuss specific cases or investigations, a department spokesperson told us, “It is possible that the royalties brought in by a film may be frozen if the company that produced it is located in France or in a country of the European Union”.
The ministry added: “According to the law, the assets of the Russian people under European sanctions are not confiscated but frozen. This means that they still own their property but cannot dispose of it freely (for example, to sell it, rent it or derive economic benefit from it). They can only be seized if they try to break the law (for example, trying to get a ship to dock in a European port to leave).
Participation in the Cannes Competition Tchaikovsky’s wife, the drama directed by Russian dissident Kirill Serebrennikov before the invasion of Ukraine, is a European co-production whose financiers include Abramovich, as well as French and Swiss entities. The film is produced by art house champion Ilya Stewart (Petrov flu), a Russian-Australian producer who now lives in France.
We understand that all the royalties frozen by the French government on this project – and you have to wonder if they would consider it worth it given the large sums and assets they have focused on so far – relate only to the investment made by Abramovich’s Kinoprime fund. . Others would probably recover first.
French sales company Charades told us the company had not been contacted by the ministry but would comply with any government orders regarding Russian funding. The firm made no further comment.
At yesterday’s press conference for Tchaikovsky’s wife director Serebrennikov called for the lifting of sanctions against Abramovich whom he described as a patron of the arts.
In recent years, Abramovich has invested in several European arthouse films through his $100 million Kinoprime fund.
France last month seized the oligarch’s lavish mansion on the French Riviera as part of European sanctions against the billionaire who initially made his fortune in the oil sector. The Cap d’Antibes house was one of twelve French properties seized by France in recent weeks in an effort to suppress Vladimir Putin and his enablers after the invasion.
The UK also imposed sanctions on Abramovich (and other Russian billionaires), which forced him to sell his beloved Chelsea football club. The United States also froze Abramovich’s bank accounts.
Abramovich has been involved in the Ukrainian peace talks and was reportedly poisoned earlier this year amid negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow.
Tchaikovsky’s wife follows the tumultuous relationship between Pyotr Tchaikovsky, one of the most famous Russian composers of all time, and his wife Antonina Miliukova.
The Cannes Film Festival this year banned official Russian delegates as well as journalists from pro-Putin publications. He decided to include Tchaikovsky’s wife in its lineup because the film was shot at a time when widespread EU sanctions did not exist against Abramovich.