US rapper Kanye West makes surprise visit to Moscow for designer’s birthday

Kanye West during a performance at Coachella Festival in California, USA, 2019. Photo: EPA-EFE/ETIENNE LAURENT

Kanye West during a performance at Coachella Festival in California, USA, 2019. Photo: EPA-EFE/ETIENNE LAURENT

Controversial US rapper Kanye West made a surprise day-long visit to Moscow over the weekend to celebrate the birthday of Russian fashion designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, the designer’s team confirmed on Sunday.

West’s arrival in Moscow was first reported by television host and music producer Yana Rudkovskaya on Sunday morning, who called the rapper’s visit “super news”.

Footage circulated widely on Russian Telegram channels appeared to show West, now legally known as Ye, walking around central Moscow with Rubchinskiy and his entourage before taking a yacht cruise down the city’s Moskva River, while crowds of fans were pictured gathering outside the Four Seasons Hotel near Red Square where the rapper was reportedly staying on Sunday evening.

While Rudkovskaya and several media outlets had suggested that West would give a concert at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium during his visit, the stadium’s management denied the rumours. The rapper reportedly left Moscow in the early hours of Monday morning.

West is thought to be the first high-profile Western music star to visit Russia since the start of Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with most performers avoiding the country due to sanctions and public pressure.

West and Rubchinskiy are known to have been friends for a number of years, and West has been pictured wearing Rubchinskiy’s designs on multiple occasions. In December, West appointed Rubchinskiy as creative director of his brand Yeezy in what he called a “milestone in design history”.

Known for his 1990s-inspired designs and prominent use of Cyrillic text, Rubchinskiy became the poster boy for “post-Soviet fashion” in the mid-2010s, collaborating with the likes of Adidas and Burberry before closing his eponymous brand in spring 2018.

Later that year, allegations emerged that Rubchinskiy had pressured a minor to send him explicit photographs, which the designer and his team denied.

West has also courted controversy in recent years, having been suspended from Twitter in 2022 for antisemitic messages. He has previously praised both Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Putin, referring to himself as “Young Putin” and expressing his desire to meet the Russian leader.

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