Responding to criticism from human rights groups, actress Hillary Swank has expressed regret for attending Chechnya President Ramzan Kadyrov's birthday: "I deeply regret attending this event. If I had a full understanding of what this event was apparently intended to be, I would never have gone."
The Oscar-winning Swank joined martial arts actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, violinist Vanessa Mae and singer Seal in Chechnya to help Kadyrov celebrate his 35th birthday earlier this month.
An official from Chechnya's culture ministry disclosed that all four were paid to attend, with local media reporting that Vanessa Mae picked up a fee equivalent to about $400,000.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has since called on the stars not to keep any cash or gifts, insisting that their doing so "trivializes the suffering of countless victims."
The group said that Kadyrov, the Kremlin's enforcer in the region, and his militia were implicated in abductions, torture, executions and house burnings.
Swank is the only one of the four stars to have shown any contrition.
She did not, however, make any mention of returning her fee or donating it to charity or a human rights group.
For his part, Seal remains defiant. When criticized, he responded on Twitter: "I am a musician and would appreciate (it) if you leave me out of your politics."
"There is no shortage of information about Kadyrov's terrible human rights record," said Human Rights Watch's Hugh Williamson. "All it takes is a few clicks to find a veritable catalogue of abuse. Celebrities should do better to avoid legitimizing people like Kadyrov and embarrassing themselves."
Kadyrov, who fought against the Russians only to later switch sides and become their chief enforcer, denies all the allegations against him, insisting they are part of a smear campaign.
A photo of Swank, Van Damme and Kadyrov at the party: