Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday insisted Moscow was not looking to muzzle an acclaimed director, currently under house arrest as part of a controversial fraud case.

Top theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov was charged last month with defrauding the state of over $1.1 million (900,000 euros) in arts funding and confined to his residence until October 19.

The director -- who heads Moscow's Gogol Centre and staged productions at the Bolshoi theatre -- has denounced the charges as "absurd".

Critics view the case as the latest crackdown on liberal culture in Putin's Russia.

But the Kremlin strongman told journalists that there was "no censorship, no pressure" and that had the authorities wanted to curb the artist then they would not have given him financial backing in the first place.

"For the investigators the issue is only about the legality of the spending of state funds," Putin told a press conference following a BRICS summit in China.

A Moscow court on Monday rejected an appeal by Serebrennikov against his house arrest.

Leading Russian cultural figures and international artists including Cate Blanchett have called for Serebrennikov's release and want the charges dropped.