Chechen Cha-Cha: Church Investors Linked to Birthday Party Scandal

A German dance troupe is under fire for their performace at a party for Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been accused of human rights abuses. Now the controversy has unexpectedly spread to the Catholic Church. SPIEGEL reports the 'television ballet' also receives funding from a firm partly owned by nine dioceses.

The MDR 'television ballet' danced for Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's birthday. Zoom
DPA

The MDR 'television ballet' danced for Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's birthday.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's 35th birthday party in Grozny was a lavish affair. Held on Oct. 5, it featured performances by international artists, including a company of dancers partly owned by the German state television channel MDR.

The decision by the Deutsches Fernsehballet, or "German Television Ballet," to perform for a man accused of human rights abuses sparked a barrage of criticism. Green party parliamentarian Volker Beck demanded to know why "a state-funded ballet group" should "perform for someone with blood on their hands."

A number of Kadyrov's opponents and critics have been murdered over the last several years, though he denies all allegations of his involvement.

Last week even MDR, the home channel and largest shareholder of the dance troupe, criticised their participation in Kadyrov's birthday celebrations. The broadcaster owns 40 percent of the company.

Another 30 percent of the Berlin-based dance troupe's shares belong to Munich TV production firm Tellux, the shareholders of which include nine Catholic dioceses in Germany, according to SPIEGEL information. Among these are the archdioceses of Munich-Freising and Cologne.

'Deep Regret'

The fact that Tellux, whose website points out the group's "specifically Christian approach," was involved in that kind of show business, reportedly came as a surprise to its Catholic investors. But the Grozny performance is particularly uncomfortable for the bishops.

The Rottenburg-Stuttgart diocese's press office told SPIEGEL that as a shareholder it was not "informed about daily business in advance," but added that it "deeply regretted this affair."

The diocese wished to distance itself "in every way" from leaders accused of human rights abuses, the press office said.

The circumstances of the television ballet troupe's performance in Grozny are still under investigation, but they weren't the only performers to be criticized for taking part. After the event Human Rights Watch said that guests including Belgian actor Jean Claude Van Damme, British violinist Vanessa Mae and Oscar-winning US actor Hillary Swank had trivialized "the suffering of countless victims of human rights abuses" through their presence.

Swank later told AP that she "deeply regretted" attending the party, saying she had not had a "full understanding" of the event.

jas -- SPIEGEL

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