An ‘almost naked’ party of Russian elites brings on jail time, a lawsuit and apologies

The nightlife of Russia’s elite has long been famously rakish but a recent party crossed an invisible line and provoked a public scandal. One pop star ended up in jail and several others issued public apologies while an ensuing lawsuit demanded a fortune in reparations.

The scandal erupted after TV presenter and actress Anastasia Ivleeva hosted a bash at a Moscow nightclub with the stated dress code of “almost naked.”

Soon after, photos from the party began circulating on social media — including those of rapper Vacio seen wearing only a sock on his genitalia. Conservative legislators, bloggers and others unleashed a storm of criticism, contending the images were unseemly, even unpatriotic, for a country embroiled in war.

Some of the criticism reflected the fiercely conservative sentiment in Russia amid President Vladimir Putin’s repeated denunciation of the West for trying to undermine “traditional values” and the nationalism intensified by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“Such hangouts are a shot in the foot of the entire policy pursued by the state,” Yekaterina Mizulina, leader of a Kremlin-aligned group advocating greater internet restrictions, wrote on the messaging app Telegram.

Maria Butina, a parliament member once imprisoned in the United States for acting as an unregistered Russian agent, urged police to investigate whether the party violated Russia’s laws forbidding the spreading of LGBTQ+ “propaganda.”

Russia’s supreme court in November ruled that the LGBTQ+ “movement” constituted extremism.

Two days after the party, Vacio, whose legal name is Nikolai Vasilyev, was jailed for petty hooliganism and fined about $2,000 for violating the country’s propaganda law.

On Wednesday, Russian media reported that some 20 people had filed a 1-billion ruble ($11 million) class-action lawsuit against Ivleeva, claiming they suffered moral damage from viewing the party photographs.

The suit calls for the damages to be paid into a fund that supports soldiers fighting in Ukraine. Hearings in the case would start as early as January but the prospects for the case remain unclear even in a court system that routinely follows the state’s lead.

“People can gather half-naked, or naked, or in quilted jackets over thongs. … ‘Socially disapproved’ does not necessarily equal ‘illegal’,” lawyer Yulia Fedotova was quoted as saying by the portal.

In the wake of the outrage, several of Russia’s biggest pop-culture figures have issued public statements seeking forgiveness for attending the bash.

“There are moments in every person’s life when they walk in (through) the wrong door,” said Philipp Kirkorov, a singer well-known for over-the-top, glittery costumes. In a video statement, he said he and other celebrities should carefully choose their events “in this difficult time, a time of heroism.”

Ksenia Sobchak, a socialite and journalist who was a presidential candidate in 2018, said that “if anyone was offended by my appearance, I apologize for that. I love my country, I am a journalist who works in Russia.”

By Usmana kousar