Hollywood celebrity Hilary Swank has apologized for her October appearance at a birthday party for the Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who is accused of torture, abductions and killings by human rights groups, saying she was duped into flying to Chechnya for the event by a Turkish company.
In an appearance on the Jay Leno US chat show over the weekend, Swank, who won an Oscar for best actress in 1999 for her role in the drama “Boys Don't Cry” and again in 2004 for the film “Million Dollar Baby,” said she had no idea the event would prove controversial and had “never heard” of Mr. Kadyrov's track record beforehand.
“I was invited by a Turkish real estate company to go and help be a proponent of peace by celebrating the rebuilding of a war-torn city in Chechnya … I thought, ‘Absolutely, yes. … I love to travel; I love to meet people.' Then, once there on the side of the stage, someone said, ‘It's the President's birthday; could you wish him a happy birthday?'”
Swank said she had never heard of him before and that in fact when they said his name she couldn't even say it. “So I said, ‘I'll just say, Mr. President.' So I went out and said, ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President' after I said my whole speech about it's great to be a proponent of peace and you guys are doing incredible things. Then, when I got back, only then was I made aware of who he was. Now I can say his name. His name is Kadyrov and he's a bad guy,” Swank said on her appearance on Leno's show.
“Shame on me,” Swank said. “The bottom line is that I should know where I'm going and do better research.”
On Kadyrov's 35th birthday on Oct. 5, his government organized a lavish concert in Chechnya's provincial capital, Grozny, which has been restored after being flattened during two wars between Chechen separatists and Moscow since 1994. Swank -- as well as dozens of Russian politicians and pop stars -- showed up to congratulate and lavish Kadyrov with praise from a stage arranged between a gigantic mosque and a newly built business center.