Seal Takes Heat for Serenading Chechen Strongman
While Hilary Swank and Jean-Claude Van Damme have taken heat from human rights groups for appearing at a lavish Oct. 5 party for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, so far perhaps the highest-paid star to turn out on the occasion -- singer Seal -- has gotten a pass.
Human Rights Watch, which had previously denounced Swank and Van Damme for their appearances at a celebration feting Kadryrov on his 35th birthday, has sent an inquiry to Seal regarding his performance at the event.
The organization has called on stars who attended the party to reimburse any money that they were paid to participate. "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 legitimizes a brutal leader and his regime. And getting paid to be part of such a lavish show in Chechnya trivializes the suffering of countless victims of human rights abuses there," the organization said.
While Swank has since apologized for attending the party, Seal has been lashing out at his detractors in Twitter posts. "By going there, I played MUSIC for the Chechenyan people. I'm a MUSICIAN and would appreciate if you leave me out of your politics," he wrote in response to an angry follower.
Following his performance, he wrote, "It was an interesting show indeed."
The website Caucasian Knot says Rosa Pashaeva, head of the division of arts and educational institutions of the Ministry of Culture of the Chechen Republic, declined to estimate how much the talent was paid to appear. But a representative associated with one of those in attendance tells THR that normally celebrities are paid in the six figures to attend such events but any time a performance is involved, the rate rises to seven figures.
In Seal's case, he may have gotten a stunning amount per song because Pashaeva reportedly said that he was supposed to perform for 30 minutes but sang only two songs because of time restrictions. Seal's publicist did not respond to THR's request for comment.
"As for invited celebrities -- till the last day we didn't know exactly who would come and take part in celebrations," Pashaeva told the Caucasian Knot.
"I wasn't involved in organizing the arrival of celebrities; but when they came, it was quite easy to deal with them," said Alvi Karimov, the head of the press-service of the Chechen president. "They eagerly communicated with citizens, took pictures with them, and even danced lezginka."
As previously reported by THR, Van Damme stood on stage at the party and said, "I love you Mr. Kadyrov" while Swank said she was honored to be in Grozny and wished Kadyrov a "Happy Birthday." After Swank spoke, British violinist Vanessa-Mae performed for a reported half a million dollars. There were fireworks and performances by acrobats. The celebration was held on a floating stage on the River Sunzha; portraits of Kadyrov were displayed throughout the city.