MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian movie critics and filmmakers expressed bewilderment Tuesday after the country picked a critically-panned film by veteran pro-Kremlin director Nikita Mikhalkov as its entry for the Oscars. The head of the countrys Oscar committee, Vladimir Menshov himself an Oscar-winning director publicly spoke out against the decision by his own organisation to nominate Mikhalkovs unloved war epic Citadel. The film had an absolute critical drubbing, it was never shown anywhere internationally, Menshov told the Echo of Moscow radio on Tuesday. And most importantly, it was a catastrophe at the Russian box office. The film cost around $40 million to make, but made only $5 million, Menshov added. Mikhalkov himself is a member of the committee that picks Russias Oscar entries, while many other members have close ties to the bombastic director, who won an Oscar with Burnt by the Sun in 1994. Capitalising on that films success, Mikhalkov has made two World War II-set sequels to Burnt by the Sun, the second of which is Citadel. As well as directing the films, he also played the lead role. The committee passed over arthouse filmmaker Alexander Sokurovs Faust crowned with the top prize at the Venice Film Festival as well as Elena by Andrei Zvyagintsev, which won a special jury prize at Cannes, Menshov noted. Five of eight members backed it, said Menshov, who himself won the Oscar for his Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears in 1981. The US Academy Awards committee then decides whether to nominate Russias entry in the best foreign film category. Everything depends on Mikhalkovs personal power, Menshov told the Interfax news agency. Mikhalkov heads the Union of Cinematographers, a bastion of the film establishment, and held the premiere of his first Burnt by the Sun sequel in the Kremlin.