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‘Almost naked’ celebrity party at Moscow nightclub sparks fierce backlash

By Anna Chernova, CNN

(CNN) — A host of Russian celebrities who turned up scantily clad at an “almost naked” themed party in Moscow are facing fierce backlash at a time when the country is at war in Ukraine and the authorities are pushing an increasingly conservative agenda.

The party, hosted by blogger Anastasia Ivleeva on December 20-21 at the Mutabor club in the capital, drew criticism from Orthodox Church officials and pro-war activists, as well as pro-Kremlin lawmakers.

One of the attendees, rapper Vacio (Nikolay Vasilyev), who showed up wearing a sock to cover his genitals, has been sentenced to 15 days in jail and fined 200,000 rubles (roughly $2,200) after a Moscow court ruled the event was aimed at “propagating non-traditional sexual relationships.”

Vasilyev was found guilty of offenses including “petty hooliganism.”

“Nikolay Vasilyev (better known as rapper Vacio) participated in a party at the ‘Mutabor’ nightclub, disrupted public order, used vulgar language, and disseminated publications in Telegram channels aimed at promoting non-traditional sexual relationships in mass media on the internet,” the court ruling said.

In recent years, the Kremlin has expanded a raft of anti-LGBTQ laws, a conservative shift that has intensified following the invasion of Ukraine. Last month, Russia’s Supreme Court declared the “international LGBTQ movement” an extremist organization.

The backlash against the party in Moscow comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly focused on traditional values as opposed to what he has portrayed as the decadence and immorality of the West as he seeks reelection in March 2024.

Apologies issued amid angry reaction

Vasilyev is among those who attended the party to issue a public apology.

Organizer Ivleeva initially said the partygoers dress choices were their own, and claimed the event was a chance to showcase photos made during her tenure as the chief editor of the Russian edition of Playboy.

On Wednesday, Ivleeva released a new video lasting over 21 minutes where she tearfully apologized, seeking forgiveness and a second chance, or public condemnation.

A lawsuit seeking compensation of 1 billion rubles ($11 million) for moral damages was filed on Tuesday against Ivleeva for organizing the party, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

One of the other attendees, pop star Anna Asti, had a New Year’s event at another club in Moscow cancelled, the venue said on its website.

“Dear friends, due to reasons beyond our control, the performance of Anna Asti has been rescheduled to a new date, which we will announce soon,” the message said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on Wednesday, stating: “Regarding this party, I ask for your mercy: let’s stay the only ones in the country not discussing this topic.”

An outspoken pro-war activist and Head of the Safe Internet League, Ekaterina Mizulina, thanked Russian police on Wednesday for their response, and shared Telegram screenshots of messages allegedly from concerned and outraged citizens.

“How do I explain to my nephew, who, while participating in a special operation, lost both legs and became disabled, what he fought for, and why he ended up disabled, for Ivleeva’s underwear?” one of the messages read, referring to the official Russian euphemism for its invasion of Ukraine.

“To host such events at a time when our young people are perishing in the military operations and many children are losing their fathers is cynical,” said Mizulina in her own post. “Our fighters on the front lines are certainly not fighting for this.”

Meanwhile, Vitaly Borodin, head of the Federal Project for Security and Anti-Corruption, expressed outrage, calling the event “sodomy, obscurantism, and LGBT propaganda,” urging the Minister of Internal Affairs to send police to the Mutabor nightclub.

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