September 21, 2017 / 2:11 PM / 10 months ago

Russia detains suspects over arson attack linked to film about last tzar

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police said on Thursday they had detained four men, including the leader of a radical religious group, in connection with an arson attack related to a new film about the country’s last tzar.

The film, called ‘Matilda,’ is by award-winning director Andrei Uchitel and tells the story of a love affair between Russia’s last tzar, Nicholas II, and a young ballerina.

It is due to be released later this year despite protests from religious conservatives who are offended by what they believe is its disrespectful depiction of a man the Russian Orthodox Church regards as a saint.

Some cinemas have said they will not be showing the film because of threats they received.

The four men detained are suspected of organising an arson attack this month in which two cars parked outside the office of Uchitel’s lawyer were set on fire. Three of the men had been charged with arson, the Russian Interior Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

One of the detained men is Alexander Kalinin, leader of a radical religious group called Christian State, the Interfax news agency reported, citing the ministry’s spokeswoman. Kalinin has called on the authorities to ban the film.

Kalinin’s wife Marina confirmed to Reuters that her husband had been detained and that his brother had also been held.

She said Kalinin did not take part in the arson attack. It was unclear if he was one of those charged.

The attack was one of a series of violent protests over the film, including an arson attack on Uchitel’s studio and a man driving a car into the facade of a cinema.

Russian authorities promised last week they would stamp out any such extremist protests.

Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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