Dubai is set to deport around a dozen Ukrainian women and one Russian man detained after a nude photo shoot they staged on a high-rise balcony sparked outrage in the glitzy, conservative Gulf city state.

The shoot “contravened UAE law,” Dubai’s government said in a statement on Twitter Tuesday, adding that it would offer no further comment.

Earlier in the week authorities said they had arrested a group of foreigners involved in taking a series of nude photos from a balcony in the upscale Marina area. Police said the photo shoot, images from which were shared on social media, did not “reflect the values and ethics of Emirati society,” the BBC reported.

Dubai authorities accused those detained of public debauchery and producing pornography, though their swift deportation appears to have been ordered without any formal trial.

Ukrainians, Russian held for nude photo shoot on Dubai balcony

While Dubai is keen to attract international tourists and business, Instagram influencers among them, it has maintained many strict laws curbing social and political freedoms. Consensual sex between unmarried couples was illegal until November of last year. In 2017, before the change, a British woman was sentenced to one year in jail for violating that law.


Ukraine’s foreign ministry told the BBC that consular officials had visited 12 detained Ukrainian women on Tuesday. The exact nationalities and number of all the people involved in the photo shoot was not immediately known.

Foreigners make up about 90% of the UAE’s 9 million residents. Many are migrant workers from East and South Asia working in construction or domestic labor, while other foreign residents are employed in the sheikhdom’s booming business and tourism hubs.

A series of legal changes loosening social controls last year were intended to attract foreign investors, though many restrictions remain. Sharing pornographic material can lead to jail time. Dubai’s majority state-owned telecom companies filter out access to pornographic websites, among other internet monitoring, The Associated Press reported.