"After a check of actions … committed by a foreign musician at a rock concert in Odessa, Ukraine, a specialized investigative unit of Russia’s Interior Ministry in the Krasnodar Territory launched a criminal case regarding the desecration of the national flag,” the ministry said in a statement.
During a performance by the band, Bloodhound Gang, in the Ukrainian port of Odessa on July 31, bassist Jared Hasselhoff crammed a Russian flag down his pants and literally wiped his butt with it, a YouTube video shows. Russian authorities subsequently canceled the band’s scheduled appearance at the Kubana rock festival, near the southern Russian Black Sea resort of Anapa. The band reportedly left Russia soon afterward.
Russia’s Criminal Code states that "foreign nationals … who commit a crime beyond the boundaries of the Russian Federation are subject to criminal liability in line with this code if their crime is aimed against the interests of the Russian Federation or a Russian national.”
Desecration of the Russian flag is punishable by up to a year in prison, according to Article 329 of the Russian Criminal Code, in line with which the case was launched.
US Ambassador Michael McFaul called the incident "disgusting” in a Twitter message but said the US Constitution’s First Amendment protects flag desecrators from punishment in the United States. Flag desecration is, however, illegal in many other countries.
McFaul also condemned an act of violence against the band, apparently referring to a subsequent incident in Anapa Airport when band members were assaulted by local activists.
The YouTube video of the apparent flag desecration was flooded with angry Russian-language comments. Journalists later quoted the band as saying that all items that the band throws into the crowd must first pass through the bassist’s pants.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry is also investigating Bloodhound Gang regarding a reported desecration of the Ukrainian flag at an earlier concert in Kiev. Criminal cases have been opened into desecration of both flags, a ministry spokesman said.
Russian prosecutors in the Krasnodar Territory said they had begun an investigation into local music festivals, including Kubana, where Bloodhound Gang was scheduled to perform.
Russian and Ukrainian lawmakers have also proposed permanently banning Bloodhound Gang members from entering their countries.
Updated at 21:32 to say Ukraine opened a criminal case into the alleged desecrations.