Held ostensibly to commemorate the opening of a business center, Grozny City Day was also a crafty celebration of Ramzan Kadyrov’s thirty-fifth birthday. The Head of the Chechen Republic enlisted Hilary Swank, Jean-Claude van Damme, Seal, and violinist cum Olympic racer Vanessa-Mae for his special day.
“I deeply regret attending this event,” Swank later stated, following criticism from human rights groups. “If I had a full understanding of what this event was apparently intended to be, I would never have gone.”
Her spokesperson said Swank’s fees would be donated to various charitable organizations, while the singer Seal was unapologetic on Twitter. “By going there I played MUSIC for the Chechenyan [sic] people. I’m a MUSICIAN and would appreciate if you leave me out of your politics.”
“You are a hypocrite!” he scolded a blogger from New Jersey who had called him a “coward & a joke.” “You sit there under your umbrella and democracy and never once stop to think how it keeps you dry!”
Hilary Swank: “It is so wonderful to be here tonight, thank you so much for inviting me to your beautiful city.
I got the opportunity to take a tour of the city today, and I’m always taken by the passion to make peace, and to make something beautiful, and I could feel the spirit of the people. Everyone felt so happy, it was nice to be around.
I was told that a company called Bora in Turkey had done a lot of the work, the construction here. And I pay a lot of attention to details, and they did a fantastic job, so congratulations to them.
This is my first time in Grozny. I love to travel, I love to see the world, I love to see different cultures, so really, truly, for me, this is a great honour, to learn more about your country and what you’re building.
And I hope someday, when you get your opera house built, maybe I’ll have a film premiere here. I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful.
And happy birthday Mr. President. Thank you again very much.
Translator: How do you know?
Hilary Swank: I read, I do my research. And I saw all the people so dressed up so beautifully today, I said, ‘Wow, they really do it up here, they’re even more formal and beautiful than the people in New York City,’ and they said…I thought, ‘Wow, are they going to a premier?’ Again, thank you so much for having me.”
Hilary Swank, October 5 2011, at the Grozny City Day celebrations.