Kennedy Center in Washington DC drops their ‘Russian lounge’

Move comes amid international backlash following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

John Bowden
Sunday 20 March 2022 23:36
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Vladimir Putin calls on neighbours not to sanction Russia

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is joining the sweeping rejection of Russia’s culture and government that has seized the US amid Moscow’s bloody invasion of Ukraine.

The Washington DC-based cultural center “quietly” renamed a meeting space that was previously decorated with Russian art and dubbed the “Russian Lounge”, following a $5 million donation from businessman Vladimir Potanin in 2011 Politico reported.

Mr Potanin, who owns nickel mines in the country, is one of the Russian oligarchs with ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin who has thus far escaped US sanctions over the invasion.

A spokesperson for the Kennedy Center noted the temporary nature of chosen themes for the center’s lounges, but also mentioned the invasion in a statement to Politico.

The Center is a hub for cultural events in the nation’s capital and is funded almost entirely by donations and ticket sales. It is the site of the Kennedy Center Honors, annual awards given to individuals who make milestone achievements in American culture.

Separately, in an email to trustees earlier this month, Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter stressed that the lounge had not been funded by the Russian government, though Mr Potanin’s connections to Mr Putin have been well-known for years, and have been highlighted by the US Treasury Department.

“We realize in today’s climate there are questions about the name of the Russian Lounge,” the email from Ms Rutter read, according to Politico.

“This is a complicated issue, and we are actively assessing the best way to address it in the short and long terms while still proceeding with our plan to invite donors back to all our Lounge spaces for the first time since COVID closures,” it continued.

The Independent has contacted the Kennedy Center for comment.

The decision comes amid a backlash against Russian businesses and goods that has swept across the US after the war broke out. Businesses in several states have reported threatening messages or worse. A well-known restaurant in downtown DC, called Russia House, was recently vandalised and had its windows broken.

DC lawmakers have pressed on with a campaign of escalating actions aimed at isolating Russia on the world stage through economic sanctions and bans on imports of Russian-produced energy.

Some state governments have gone a step further and banned Russian vodka from store shelves.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will reach its one-month milestone later this week as the country’s military is reportedly bogged down by fierce Ukrainian resistance in nearly every part of the country.

Media reports, humanitarian organisations and government agencies have all indicated that the Russian armed forces are pursuing increasingly violent tactics against Ukraine’s civilian population as the war continues and their own casualties appear to be mounting.

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