A party in a large Moscow nightclub turned into something not very pleasant: public humiliation and the threat of arrest.
A “nearly naked” party at Mutabor, a popular Moscow nightclub, days before Christmas attracted high-profile Russian celebrities, influencers and socialites, some of whom showed up in revealing clothes or underwear. A rapper showed up with only a pair of shoes and a sock on his private parts.
The festivities were not well received by members of the country’s so-called patriotic community, with photographs and videos of the December 20 event sparking outrage among staunch supporters of the invasion of Ukraine. The violent backlash against the party, which dominated Russian news and social space for a week, reveals the power that the pro-war community has gained since the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.
Pro-war lawmakers, propagandists and military bloggers have accused those who attended the nightclub party and its organizers of moral corruption as soldiers die on the front lines.
“There is a war going on in the country, but these creatures, these scum, are organizing all this,” wrote Vladimir Solovyov, a state television presenter and major Kremlin propagandist, on the messaging app Telegram. “How morally deaf must you be?” »
The Kremlin has used the war in Ukraine to promote conservative “family values,” while rejecting Western ideals of free speech and choice. Russian hawks have noticed the government’s conservative shift.
“Holding such events at a time when our men are dying… and many children are losing their fathers is cynical,” Russian pro-war MP Yekaterina Mizulina said on Telegram, calling for a boycott of those who attended the party. “Our soldiers on the front are certainly not fighting for this. »
A video was posted on pro-war Telegram channels purporting to show Russian soldiers on the front lines also criticizing the party. NBC News could not verify whether the men in the video are Russian soldiers in Ukraine, or when the video was filmed.
The party’s fallout led to a series of apologies from celebrities in attendance, including journalist and socialite Ksenia Sobchak, who ran against President Vladimir Putin in the 2018 election.
Some hawks have already called for punishing participants.
“We simply have to cancel: titles, awards, concerts, broadcasts and advertising contracts,” Sergei Mironov, head of the pro-Putin political party “Fair Russia,” said on Telegram on Wednesday. “It serves them well!” »
The organizer of the event, one of Russia’s biggest influencers, Anastasia Ivleeva, has borne the brunt of criticism and could face prosecution. She called for peace from the first days of the war, but chose to stay in Russia and has remained silent since those initial comments.
On Wednesday, Ivleeva, 32, posted a tearful 20-minute apology to her 18 million Instagram followers, saying she regretted the party and asking people for a “second chance.”
MP Mizulina said Russian federal tax authorities had opened an investigation into Ivleeva which she said “had every chance” of leading to a criminal case. State media reported on Wednesday that Ivleeva was also being sued for 1 billion rubles ($11 million) by 22 unnamed entities for “moral harm” caused by her party, with the reward money to be returned to a war fund.
NBC News could not independently confirm whether legal action had been filed.
Mizulina thanked Russian authorities for their “quick response” to Ivleeva’s party. “The home front is in good hands,” she added.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ardent supporter of the war and staunch Putin ally, called the party “satanic” and demanded that apologizing participants prove their “sincerity” by attending a military training course in Chechnya .
Vasio, the rapper who showed up at the party in socks, was arrested and sentenced to 15 days in prison by a Moscow court, the official Tass news agency reported on Wednesday. The court said he was convicted of participating in a party promoting “non-traditional sexual relations”. Russia banned the LGBTQ movement as extremist last month.
Russia’s official Ria news agency released a video of the rapper apologizing for offending people’s feelings with his take on “such a difficult time” for the country.
Maria Butina, a pro-Kremlin Russian lawmaker who was released in the United States in 2019 after serving time for illegally infiltrating American conservative political circles, said she had launched checks to find out whether the Mutabor party was complied with the law on “LGBTQ propaganda”.
Officially, the Kremlin has stayed out of the controversy, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov declining to comment.
“Let us remain the only ones in the country not to discuss this subject,” he said Wednesday during a press briefing with journalists.
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