What was supposed to be the debut of a documentary about punk rock band and social activists Pussy Riot got scrapped at the last minute by the Russian government.

Organizers of a screening of Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer that was set to take place at the Gogol Center, a state-run theater in Moscow, received a letter from the Department of Culture banning the film from being shown:

The letter, which was posted online by one of the center's directors, accused the artists and filmmakers involved of being provocateurs, and said their brand of culture had no place in a government building.

The role of art, it said, "is to save the world, make it better, not to inflame the public with scandalous stories that have no cultural merit."

"Let's hold tight to those principles," it concluded, "and keep everybody safe."

Maxim Pozdorovkin, co-director of the documentary, said organizers of the screening at the Gogol Center received phone calls, threatening their jobs if the film was shown.

The cancellation follows two other scuttled screenings in Moscow, Mr. Pozdorovkin said; both were also called off at the last minute, possibly under pressure from the authorities. The film was released in the United States in the summer, and shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination in the documentary category this month.

Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were recently released from prison and have been speaking out about the Russian government ever since.

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