Hilary Swank, Van Damme fete Chechen leader at flashy birthday affair
October 7, 2011
Jean-Claude Van Damme, centre, looks at Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov as they watch, with Hilary Swank, right, a performance in Grozny Wednesday. Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov turned 35 with congratulatory calls from Russia's ruling duo and Hollywood stars attending grandiose celebrations in the Caucasus republic.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov celebrated his 35th birthday in style Wednesday night, flying in a star-studded guestlist into Grozny, Russia, for the multi-million-dollar affair.
Hilary Swank, Jean Claude Van Damme and British violinist Vanessa Mae were among the attendees at the party held in the central part of the war-ravaged city, which included a laser show and fireworks lighting up the sky.
“I love you, Mr. Kadyrov,” Van Damme said at the end of his speech to Kadyrov, the BBC reported, while the Oscar-winning Swank referenced Marilyn Monroe with a “Happy birthday Mr. President.”
Vanessa Mae was reportedly paid $500,000 (U.S.) for her appearance. It is not known how much Van Damme or Swank were paid.
Kadyrov, a strong supporter of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, denied the festivities were to celebrate the anniversary of his birth, saying in a statement in late September that any thing relating to his birthday was banned.
The subsequent concert was to mark Grozny’s 193rd anniversary or Grozny City Day, he said.
“There won’t be any birthday celebrations. I am categorically banning anybody from dedicating any events (to my birthday), no matter where the events take place,” Kadyrov said in a statement, according to The Moscow Times.
Kadyrov spent Wednesday in Chechnya’s capital opening a hospital, bridge and a riverside development property complete with 45-storey building and luxury hotel.
But the birthday boy didn’t get all his wishes.
Columbian singer Shakira turned down an invitation to perform.
Shakira took to Twitter on Sept. 29 to deny she was even invited to the event, but Kadyrov said in a TV interview leading up to the event that the songstress was in fact invited.
“Rights activists wrote a letter to Shakira telling her not to come because the authorities here kill people and human rights are breached,” Kadyrov said in a TV interview, the Agence France-Presse reports. “Only enemies of the people could write this.”
Asked why the region has been plagued by human rights abuse cases and separatist wars for 20 years, Kadyrov said: “Allah gives it to us,” The Telegraph reports, before changing direction and adding, “I don’t know, it comes from somewhere.”