Pop singer Madonna was on Thursday accused of causing Russia's population to dip because her expression of support for gays at a concert meant young people would be "more interested in filth than family building".
But in bizarre scenes, a judge threw out a demand that Madonna pay pounds 6.5million in damages over claims she "promoted homosexuality" at a concert in St Petersburg. The singer went on trial in absentia in the city for allegedly breaking a regional law, introduced in February, which bans "propaganda of homosexuality" among minors.
A group of Russian activists had claimed more than pounds 6.5million in moral damages from the singer over comments she made at the concert in August. Madonna, who was not in court and not represented, spoke out then against the law - under which she was later prosecuted herself. She urged the audience to "show your love and appreciation to the gay community".
Judge Vitaly Barkovsky rejected the compensation claims and ordered the activists to pay legal fees to the defendants.
Madonna, 54, also provoked a bitter response when she spoke out at a summer concert in Moscow in support of three members of the jailed feminist opposition group Pussy Riot. Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister, called her then a "moralising whore", adding: "Either take off your cross, or put on your knickers."
Madonna's co-defendants at the St Petersburg hearing, Planeta Plyus, a local company which organised her concert, and the sports complex where it was held, were represented.
As evidence of Madonna's guilt, the complainants cited her Facebook account in which, they said, she had "called the anti-homosexuality law savagery and promised to speak about that during her show". A screenshot from the account in which Madonna called the law "a ridiculous atrocity" was also shown, as was a YouTube recording of her comments at the concert.
Judge Barkovsky had some barbed exchanges with the plaintiffs. Shown an allegedly shocking picture of two men kissing at Madonna's concert, he asked them: "Why do you not perceive photos from Navy Day [a Russian holiday] when two men are embracing each other in the same way?"
"That's how a man should embrace a woman," one of the plaintiffs replied. But, referring to another public holiday when servicemen jump in fountains and male bonding is often on display, the judge said: "Try telling that to the paratroopers outside the Peter and Paul Fortress on Airborne Troops Day."
Madonna has not commented and it is unclear if she even received a summons. The activists who brought the claim said they would appeal.