Russian stars’ semi-naked party sparks wartime backlash

The party, in Moscow’s Mutabor nightclub on Dec 21, was organised by blogger Anastasia (Nastya) Ivleeva and was attended by well-known singers in various states of undress who have been staples on state TV entertainment programmes for years.

Ivleeva, who has since become one of Russia’s most recognised names and who attended wearing jewellery worth 23 million roubles (US$251,000) at a time when some Russians are struggling to get by, has issued two public apology videos.

In the second tearful one, released on Dec 27, 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 individuals demanding she pay out 1 billion roubles (US$10.9 million) for “moral suffering”.

If successful, they want the money to go to a state fund that supports Ukraine war veterans.


“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.

“Our soldiers on the front line are definitely not fighting for this.”

Many of the party’s famous participants have recorded apologies, including journalist Ksenia Sobchak whose late father Anatoly used to be Putin’s friend and boss.

The scandal comes at a time when Putin, who is expected to comfortably win another six-year term at a March election, has doubled down on social conservatism, urging families to have eight or more children, and after Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that LGBT activists should be designated as “extremists”.

Nikolai Vasilyev, a rapper known as Vacio who attended wearing only a sock to cover his penis, was jailed by a Moscow court for 15 days and fined 200,000 roubles (US$2,182) for propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relations”.

Other more famous names have had concerts and lucrative state TV airtime cancelled, contracts with sponsors revoked, and, in at least one case, are reportedly being cut out of a new film.

The scandal has angered those who support Russia’s war in Ukraine.

One woman who said her nephew had lost both legs in combat wrote in a post to the League for a Safe Internet that the stars should pay for prosthetic legs for her relative and others to make amends.

“That would be a better apology,” the unidentified woman wrote.

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