Hollywood Stars Turn Out for President’s Birthday — In Chechnya

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Sergei Uzakov / Itar-Tass / ABACAUSA.COM

Just when you thought celebrities couldn’t sell out any more dubiously, along comes Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s 35th birthday party.

A host of high-profile names, seemingly oblivious to the human rights abuses leveled against the strongman ruler’s regime, streamed into the impoverished Russian republic of Chechnya on Oct. 5, according to The Atlantic Wire.

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Kadyrov, appointed to power by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 2007, celebrated in typically understated style by throwing a huge party featuring light and fireworks shows and combining the bash with the 193rd anniversary of the founding of the capital, Grozny.

Oscar-winner Hilary Swank, Belgian martial artist and actor Jean-Claude Van Damme and British violinist Vanessa Mae were among those to attend. Swank, who was pictured speaking at the event, seemed to act like she had popped over to meet Nobel Peace Prize-winning Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

“I love to travel, I love to see the world, I love to see different cultures,” Sky News reported she told guests. “So really, truly from me, this is a great honor to learn more about you and your country and what you’re building. And happy birthday Mr. President,” she added.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph reported that local media said Mae was charging a fee of half a million dollars to perform in the concert. Mr Kadyrov, who at one point took to the stage to show off some traditional dance moves, appeared unsure how it was all paid for. “Allah gives it to us,” he reportedly said, before adding: “I don’t know, it comes from somewhere.”

In a 2006 report, Human Rights Watch accused the Chechen leader of presiding over a regime that committed “widespread torture.”

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Joe Jackson is a contributor at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @joejackson. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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