MOSCOW—Just as Special Counsel Robert Mueller was wrapping up his 22-month-long investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, John Travolta was in Moscow confessing his great love for Russian arts at the Bolshoi Theatre, only a few steps away from the Kremlin.
Elite members of President Vladimir Putin’s court, mostly from the so-called “liberal wing,” plus propagandists and pop stars posed with the legendary face of Pulp Fiction. Cameras captured Travolta, the Kremlin’s “guest of honor” on the red carpet, and paparazzi snapped him, his head shaved, his beard not, smiling along with Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov and “pop king” Filipp Kirkorov, a long-time buddy of President Donald Trump and his progeny.
Never mind that Travolta is one of the most prominent figures in the Church of Scientology, which is banned in Russia. Or, for that matter, that Kirkorov publicly defended the Russian LGBT community against ongoing government repression. When it comes to star power, all is forgiven and forgotten (at least for a while).
“Look, when Moscow’s liberal elite decide to demonstrate to both domestic and international audiences that they are still tolerant and worth shaking hands with, there are no laws, even the ones they make themselves, that can stop the Kremlin,” Pavel Lobkov, a well-known television presenter, told The Daily Beast. “There is a common joke in Moscow these days: ‘The future is not for everyone.’ So, Peskov wants us to remember that when the current power collapses, he was posing for pictures with guys from Hollywood.”
Travolta did everything just the way the Kremlin wanted him to: standing before a Rossiya-24 camera, he said: “The culture in Russia is deep and varied, from Dostoyevsky to Nureyev, Russia has the best music, ballet and avant-garde artists.” The actor told Russian television viewers that both he and his mother were fans of the Stanislavsky method of acting. “So, I adore your culture,” he added.
The Oscar-nominated actor came to Moscow last week with his sisters Ellen and Margaret and his daughter Ella. During his visit, he had dinner and a long chat with Kremlin spokesman Peskov about the “Russophobic moods” of the U.S. authorities.
Just a few weeks ago, Peskov was telling journalists about the Kremlin’s efforts to protect Russia from “racketeering attacks” of the United States. And now Peskov was asking the aging Hollywood star what American citizens really think about Russia.
“We discussed the reasons behind the Russophobic hysteria heated up by the U.S. political circles, which nobody can explain,” Peskov told reporters later. Travolta allegedly told Peskov that “ordinary Americans” shared a positive attitude of Russia.
Travolta follows a long line of Kremlin-paid Hollywood celebrities attending functions here.
The same “Federaciya” foundation that allegedly paid Sharon Stone and Kevin Costner for singing “Blueberry Hill” with former KGB chief Putin back in 2010 organized Travolta’s trip as well as American singer Michael Bolton’s visit to Moscow.
While it is unclear how much money Moscow has paid Travolta for his participation, there is no question the Hollywood star played his role well. In an exclusive interview for the country’s key propaganda outlet, the Rossiya Segodnya news agency, Travolta praised Russian culture as “the fundament of all arts,” adding, “If somebody denies it, that is stupid.”
No matter how derided or mocked Travolta was back home after reports about his obsession with masseuses or for feuding with his Scientology friends, here in Moscow leading Kremlin officials were proud to be seen asking for his political advice.
On Wednesday, Travolta held a meeting with Mikhail Fedotov of the Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. “They agreed to put Russian and American civil activists at the table for negotiations and also discussed humanitarian issues,” the MIR-24 television channel reported about the meeting.
Travolta has been a practicing Scientologist since the 1970s, and he is one of the church’s most prized members. It stands to reason that one of the “humanitarian issues” discussed could have been the country’s treatment of Scientologists, following a number of Scientology raids and arrests in recent years. But it would be naïve to think that any of these planned Russian-American humanitarian meetings could change the Kremlin’s views on Scientology, which Orthodox believers consider a “CIA-controlled church.”
However, according to Olga Bychkova, deputy chief editor of Echo of Moscow, this was not the case: “Travolta was not in Moscow as a Scientologist but as a shot-down pilot, a pensioner star, like the Russian citizen Gérard Depardieu he’s been tamed for a fake show.”