Hollywood stars Hilary Swank and Jean-Claude Van Damme have come under fire from human rights groups for attending the birthday celebrations of Chechnya's controversial President Ramzan Kadyrov last week (05Oct11).
The politician, who turned 35 on Wednesday (05Oct11), closed off central Grozny, the country's capital, to host a lavish bash, which saw a number of skyscrapers illuminated as fireworks were simultaneously set off.
He invited Oscar-winner Swank and action man Van Damme to watch violinist Vanessa Mae perform as part of his birthday party, and both wished him many happy returns.
However, the stars' attendance has infuriated activists who accuse Kadyrov of acts of brutality and torture against his own people.
A spokesperson for the Human Rights Watch organisation has urged the pair to hand any fee they received for attending the party to charity, saying, "Ramzan Kadyrov is linked to a litany of horrific human rights abuses. It's inappropriate for stars to get paid to party with him. It bolsters his image and legitimises a brutal leader and his regime. And getting paid to be part of such a lavish show in Chechnya trivialises the suffering of countless victims of human rights abuses there."
Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation, adds, "Hilary Swank obviously has the right to earn a living entertaining the highest bidder, but this sort of venality should be exposed - especially after claiming she was not going.
"Would she have accepted an invitation to entertain (former Chilean leader Augusto) Pinochet? Al-Qaeda? The apartheid government in Pretoria? We must remember the disgrace of Mariah Carey, Nelly Furtado, Beyonce and 50 Cent (who) were exposed... singing for Gaddafi's family and earning millions of dollars for it."