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‘We cannot play against the backdrop of this murderous invasion’: The artists speaking out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Performers and organisations from across the cultural world are distancing themselves from Russia amid the country’s invasion of Ukraine

Louis Chilton,Roisin O'Connor
Thursday 03 March 2022 09:48 GMT
Huge explosion hits Kyiv as Russian attacks on capital intensify

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted outrage and condemnation across the globe, with many world leaders announcing sanctions in response.

While most of the official government sanctions in the UK, US and elsewhere are economic, the war has also prompted a backlash within the arts world.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the preliminary cultural sanctions announced in response to the violence in Ukraine...

The Eurovision Song Contest announced that Russia will be banned from performing at the 2022 competition.

“The decision reflects concern that, in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s contest would bring the competition into disrepute,” said the European Broadcasting Union in a statement.

The decision constituted something of a U-turn, with the ceremony’s organisers previously being met with a barrage of criticism for announcing that they had no plans to prevent Russia from taking part, despite being urged by Ukraine’s public broadcaster.

In the world of theatre, New York City’s Metropolitan Opera has said that it will cease working with performers and companies that support or are supported by Vladimir Putin.

In a statement released on Sunday (27 February), the Met Opera’s general manager Peter Gelb said that the new policy would be instated “until the invasion and killing has been stopped, order has been restored and restitutions have been made”.

According to the New York Times, the new policy will likely mean that the Met’s partnership with Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre is coming to an end. The two companies have a five-year agreement involving co-operative productions, with several joint shows for next season already scheduled to play.

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Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, 68, was dropped by his management company the same day, due to his ties to Putin.

Munich-based Marcus Felsner has represented the acclaimed conductor since 2020. In a statement, he said: “In light of the criminal war waged by the Russian regime against the democratic and independent nation of Ukraine, and against the European open society as a whole, it has become impossible for us, and clearly unwelcome, to defend the interests of Maestro Gergiev.”

Last week, London’s Royal Opera House also announced that it was abandoning plans for a Bolshoi residency this summer.

Valery Gergiev conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in 2016 (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for BMW & London Symphony Orchestra)

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia has also cancelled a number of planned UK tour dates. Promotion company Raymond Gubbay Limited announced that the tour was being abandoned “due to the current shocking circumstances unfolding in Ukraine”.

A number of venues around the UK have also announced they are cancelling planned visits from touring Russian companies.

The Ukranian Film Academy has called for an international boycott of Russian cinema. In a plea to global film institutions and professionals, the institution called for international festivals to ban Russian films from their line-up and for producers to terminate any dealings with businesses connected to the Russian Federation.

Warner Bros, Sony Pictures and Disney are among the studios to pull forthcoming film releases from Russia, with the Pixar animation Turning Red, supervillain thriller Morbius and The Batman all being withdrawn ahead of their planned release dates.

Robert Pattinson in ‘The Batman' (AP/Warner Bros)

The European Film Academy has given its support to the boycott, announcing on Tuesday 1 March that Russian movies would be excluded from the European Film Awards 2022 in December.

Individual music artists have also boycotted performances in Russia, including Green Day, who announced on Instagram on Sunday that they were cancelling a planned Moscow gig.

“With heavy hearts, in light of current events we feel it is necessary to cancel our upcoming show in Moscow at Spartak Stadium,” they wrote.

“We are aware that this moment is not about stadium rock shows, it’s much bigger than that. But we also know that rock and roll is forever and we feel confident there will be a time and a place for us to return in the future. Refunds available at the point of purchase. Stay safe.”

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day (Getty Images)

Other music artists including Imagine Dragons, Franz Ferdinand, Nick Cave, Franz Ferdinand, Twenty One Pilots, Bring Me the Horizon, Louis Tomlinson, AJR and Oxxxymiron have also cancelled their concerts in Russia.

“Much as we hate to disappoint our Russian fans, and we know they do not support this war, we cannot play against the backdrop of this murderous invasion,” Alt-J tweeted.

“We pray for the people of Ukraine, we call on president Putin to end the war and hope to return to Russia one day under a different regime.”

“We are sad to announce that we will be cancelling our upcoming show in Russia,” AJR wrote in a tweet on Friday (25 February). “Thank you to our Russian fans who oppose their country’s unprovoked and criminal behavior. Our hearts are with the people of Ukraine. At this point, the best thing you can do is share ACCURATE info.”

Russian rapper Oxxxymiron added that he can’t “perform while Russian missiles fall on Ukraine”.

“[I am] postponing six of my major gigs in Moscow and St Petersburg indefinitely,” he said in a widely shared video.

Posting to Instagram, Muse frontman Matt Bellamy praised Russians “willing to stand up to their corrupt government”, as well as the people of Ukraine “fighting for their right to live free and in peace”.

Follow the latest updates on the Ukraine-Russia crisis here.

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