Gérard Depardieu’s bombastic personality and distinguished acting career have made him a cultural icon in France. However, he recently earned international notoriety by embracing Russian president Vladimir Putin and announcing that he would give up his French passport in favor of a Russian one.
One of the most popular items pinging back and forth across the internet is the infamousvideo report on the glitzy extravaganza sponsored by the president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, to celebrate both his birthday and the unveiling of a series of lavish new buildings in the Chechen capital, Grozny. What made the spectacle especially notable was the presence of several celebrities from the world’s great democracies, including American actress Hilary Swank and the Belgian-born Hollywood action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme. In her words of appreciation, Swank said she “could feel the spirit of the people, and everyone was so happy.” “Happy birthday, Mr. President,” she added.
Freedom House recently helped to organize a briefing on the human rights situation in Chechnya, hosted by the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe, entitled “In the Eye of the Storm: Chechnya and the Mounting Violence in the North Caucasus.”
Freedom House is deeply concerned with the Chechen government’s attempts to intimidate and discredit prominent and internationally recognized human rights organization, Memorial, which has played a crucial role in exposing human rights violations and assisted hundreds of victims of abuse.