Rapper jailed and other partygoers under investigation amid conservative outrage over party at Moscow’s Mutabor nightclub.
A rapper who partied at a Moscow nightclub wearing nothing but a strategically-placed sock has been jailed for 15 days, and several other Russian stars have issued public apologies after a celebrity party with the dress code “almost naked” triggered a storm of criticism and a slew of investigations.
The crackdown came after pictures from the party, which took place on the night of December 20 and was organised by TV presenter and actress Anastasia Ivleeva, began circulating on social media.
Amid the scantily-clad celebrities at the Mutabor nightclub was Vacio, the rapper, while Ivleeva was pictured flaunting an emerald-studded chain around her backside worth 23 million roubles ($251,000) at a time when some Russians are struggling to get by.
Conservative legislators, bloggers and others were fiercely critical, contending the images were unseemly, even unpatriotic, for the country, which launched a full-scale invasion of neighbouring Ukraine in February 2022. The issue has dominated the headlines for days, pushing out stories about rising egg prices and other concerns.
Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the event had “stained” those who took part, but that they now had a chance to work on themselves, the Ura.ru news outlet reported.
Vacio, whose legal name is Nikolai Vasilyev, was jailed by a Moscow court for 15 days and fined 200,000 roubles ($2,182) under the LGBTQ “propaganda” law, which was toughened last year and bans positive information on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.
Ivleeva issued two public apology videos following the event, including one on Wednesday, where she said she regretted her actions and deserved everything she got but hoped she could be given “a second chance”.
Her name has since disappeared as one of the public faces of major Russian mobile phone operator MTS, the tax authorities have opened an investigation that carries a potential five-year jail term, and a Moscow court has accepted a lawsuit from a group of more than 20 people demanding she pay out one billion roubles ($10.9m) for “moral suffering”.
If successful, they want the money to go to a state fund that supports Russian veterans from the war in Ukraine.
Russia’s flamboyant pop king Filipp Kirkorov also asked for forgiveness after footage circulated of him wearing a sparkling lace outfit with futuristic sunglasses.
“In today’s difficult and heroic times, an artist of my calibre … cannot and should not be so irresponsible when participating in various events,” he said.
Other partygoers have also recorded apologies, including journalist Ksenia Sobchak whose late father Anatoly was once a friend and boss of President Vladimir Putin.
“To hold such events at a time when our guys are dying in the (Ukrainian) special military operation and many children are losing their fathers is cynical,” said Yekaterina Mizulina, director of Russia’s League for a Safe Internet, a body founded with the authorities’ support. Russia calls its invasion a “special military operation“.
“Our soldiers on the front line are definitely not fighting for this.”
The scandal comes when Putin, who is expected to comfortably win another six-year term in elections in March, has doubled down on social conservatism, repeatedly condemning Western countries for supposedly undermining “traditional values“.
In November, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that the “LGBT movement” should be designated as “extremists.”
Standing outside the Bolshoi Theatre on Thursday, Nadezhda, one Moscow resident, told the Reuters news agency she was outraged and thought those who went to the party should be punished.
“If you’re partying, at least don’t film it,” she said. “At such a difficult time (for Russia), they should at least be ashamed. Aren’t they ashamed before those who are fighting for us?”