MOSCOW — Madonna and Lady Gaga, two of the biggest pop stars in the world, could face charges in Russia over allegations that they violated their visas when they held concerts there last year, but observers say the warning is a veiled attempt punish them for their vocal opposition to Russia’s anti-gay laws.
A spokesperson for the Prosecutor General of Russian Federation confirmed to LGBTQ Nation on Monday that the office is considering prosecution, claiming the entertainers entered the country under incorrect paperwork.
During concerts in St. Petersburg, Russia, last year, both Lady Gaga and Madonna denounced the city’s harsh anti-gay law from the stage.
In St. Petersburg, a law passed in February 20012 makes it a crime to disseminate “gay propaganda” or “promote” homosexuality to minors. A similar law has since been enacted nationally in Russia, fueling concern the saftey of LGBT Americans during the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The investigation was touched off by a formal complaint from St. Petersburg regional parliamentarian Vitaly Milonov, architect of the local anti-gay ordinance and co-author of the national legislation, which was signed into law in June by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to Russian officials, Madonna, who played in August 2012, and Gaga, who appeared in December of 2012, were admitted under “cultural-exchange visas.”
Article continues below“These visas do not grant their bearers the right to engage in any commercial activity,” Marina Gridneva, spokesperson for the Prosecutor General’s Office, said adding that prosecutors are now considering asking Russia’s foreign ministry or federal immigration service to press charges.
Milonov had previously attempted to launch criminal proceedings against the singers based on the St. Petersburg [local] law, but those efforts failed.
Both women are outspoken advocates of the LGBT community globally and had made supportive statements from the stage during separate concert appearances in the Russian Federation last year.
Madonna called the city ordinance a “ridiculous atrocity.”
In a Twitter post earlier Monday, Lada Gaga tweeted: “The Russian government is criminal. Oppression will be met with revolution. Russian LGBTs you are not alone. We will fight for your freedom.”
A spokesperson for the U. S. State Department Monday noted that Russian immigration and visa law(s) can be extremely complicated but declined comment when asked about specifics regarding the prosecutors’ announcement regarding the singers.
Russian entertainment promoters are concerned that efforts to pursue legal action against the singers could have a chilling effect on future tours by western performers, as well as tourism for this winter’s Sochi Games.