Russia: Bra and penis sock scandal: Celebrities are pilloried for partying

It all started with a nude party that wasn't even really a nude party.

Russia: Bra and penis sock scandal: Celebrities are pilloried for partying

It all started with a nude party that wasn't even really a nude party. The Russian influencer and party organizer Anastasia Ivleyeva wrote in the invitations that her guests should appear “almost naked” at the trendy Moscow nightclub “Mutabor” that evening at the end of December. And the guests did. Men came shirtless, women in thin fishnet dresses and suspenders. The rapper Vacio only wore a sock over his genitals, Ivleyeva herself wore a black bra under an almost transparent top. The evening was - if you believe various videos - wet, happy and exuberant. But when the recordings reached the Russian public shortly afterwards, the fun was over.

People were outraged and disgusted, and there was criticism on social networks. Ivleyeva explained herself in an Instagram video. At that point, she still seemed calm and even made fun of the complaints: "I love stuff like that," she joked to the camera at the time.

If the story had ended at this point, it could have been dismissed as an overreaction by a partially prudish Russian society. But the story wasn't over, instead it was just beginning. And it impressively reveals how mercilessly the Russian power apparatus is acting in its own country against many things that appear different or Western, almost two years after the start of the war of aggression against Ukraine. The anger over a bit of bare skin reveals a lot about the mood in a country full of repression, intimidation and self-appointed moral guardians.

At first the complaints increased. The stars were accused of being in bad taste for dancing half-naked while Russian soldiers risked their lives at the front. Then criminal charges followed. Russia's media regulator also said it had discovered "signs of LGBT propaganda" in party photos. The Russian judiciary understands “LGBT propaganda” to mean statements and appearances of any kind that positively portray homosexual love. Especially since the beginning of the war, the fight against a "decline in values" that was allegedly imported from the West has been a core component of propaganda loyal to the Kremlin.

Just two days after the celebration in question, rapper Vacio - the man with the penis sock - was jailed for 15 days. A Moscow court accused the 25-year-old of “hooliganism,” and an investigation was also launched against him personally for “LGBT propaganda.” Vacio, whose real name is Nikolai Vasilyev, publicly apologized. Nevertheless, at the beginning of January it became known that he had now received a muster certificate from the military. In the worst case scenario, he is threatened with deployment to the front.

Host Ivleyeva also apologized, this time in tears and without any hint of amusement. "I am fully aware of my responsibility for what happened," she said. She was sentenced to a fine equivalent to more than 1,000 euros. Little by little, more and more of the other party guests, including TV presenter Xenia Sobchak and musicians Dima Bilan and Lolita, publicly apologized. Some lost contracts and sponsors, and several performances were canceled. Popular singer Filip Kirkorov said he would donate one of his performance fees to the war-affected Russian border region of Belgorod.

According to a media report, the owner of the “Mutabor” club donated relics of St. Nicholas of Myra to the Russian Orthodox Church. A little later, the media report disappeared again and experts expressed doubts about the authenticity of the bones. Independent Russian journalists, who sometimes report on the party scandal several times a day, are no longer surprised by all these strange twists and turns.

According to research by the Moscow Times, the campaign against the celebrities was organized from the very top. A few months before the presidential election on March 17, in which Vladimir Putin wants to secure his fifth term in office, the Kremlin sensed an opportunity to "direct anger away from the Kremlin and towards the "greedy stars," the paper quoted one as saying anonymous source in the Russian government.

This cannot be proven with certainty and the Kremlin barely commented officially on the excitement surrounding the “Almost Naked” party. But many observers also believe in controlled outrage. Political scientist Abbas Galljamov, for example, suspects that the Kremlin used the situation to distract from the fact that critic Yekaterina Duntsova was recently kicked out of the race before she was officially registered as a presidential candidate.

The "Mutabor" nightclub, where everything started at the end of December, has now been closed - at least for 90 days and, according to the official reason, due to alleged hygiene violations. Anyone who even wants to enter the factory premises where the premises are located is turned away by a guard. As soon as she hears the word “Mutabor,” she snaps back harshly: “There is no entry there!”