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Russian Rocker Called A 'Traitor' For Performing For IDPs In Ukraine

  • Tom Balmforth

Not for the first time, Russian singer Andrei Makarevich has irked some establishment figures in Moscow. (file photo)

Not for the first time, Russian singer Andrei Makarevich has irked some establishment figures in Moscow. (file photo)

MOSCOW -- Some Russian lawmakers are supporting a campaign against rock musician Andrei Makarevich, threatening to strip him of state awards after he performed for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the eastern Ukraine last week.

Makarevich, founder of rock group Mashina Vremeni, or "Time Machine," was invited by a pro-Kyiv Ukrainian volunteer foundation to tour eastern Ukrainian cities ravaged during the conflict between separatist insurgents and the government forces.

He gave a charity concert on August 12 to IDP children in Donetsk Oblast's war-stricken town of Svyatogorsk. Makarevich posted a photograph on his Facebook page of a Svyatogorsk hall full of excited children standing and clapping.

"Andrei Makarevich has been partnering with fascists for a long time," lawmaker Yevgeny Fyodorov of the ruling United Russia party told the pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia" on August 18. "He made this choice a fairly long time ago, back when he sided with the Russian Federation's enemies."

Fyodorov wants to strip Makarevich of his multiple state honors including the Order "For Merit to the Fatherland," Russia's highest civilian state award. The lawmaker has also been lobbying for legislation that would automatically remove such awards from those who make "anti-Russian" statements.

Openly Critical

It is unclear why the lawmakers were angered by Makarevich's performing in front of IDPs, whom Moscow says are in need of aid.

But Makarevich has been openly critical of Kremlin policy on Ukraine.

In March, after Russia's annexation of Crimea he wrote on his Facebook page: "If we're doing everything correctly, then why is the whole world against us? … Is it because we are the only ones in the right and the whole world is sh*t?"

Speaking on the Ekho Moskvy radio station on August 18, Makarevich did not rule out suing Fyodorov for libel. "If these comrades in question continue to call me a fascist, then it seems I'll have to file a suit against them for damages to honor and dignity," he said.

Ella Pamfilova, Russia's Human Rights Ombudsman, criticized the proposal to strip Makarevich of his state awards.

"I'm against the use of state mechanisms in the fight against people who think differently," she told the Interfax news agency.

WATCH: Andrei Makarevich plays for IDPs in Svyatogorsk

Nonetheless, Makarevich has no shortage of detractors.

Aleksandr Prokhanov, editor-in-chief of the nationalist newspaper "Zavtra," branded Makarevich a "national traitor," while Eduard Limonov penned a column in "Izvestia" on "why it is necessary to punish Makarevich."

Iossef Kobzon, the Soviet-era crooner, assailed Makarevich, saying "all that is left is to sing before [Ihor] Kolomoisky," referring to the powerful Ukrainian oligarch and governor of the country's Dnipropetrovsk region, who has financed battalions of pro-Kyiv fighters.

"Democracy allows everyone to have their own opinion," Kobzon told the mass-circulation daily "Komsomolskaya pravda. "Fine – have your own opinion, but democracy does not allow you to be a traitor to your country."

Like Makarevich, Kobzon also holds the state award "For Merit to the Fatherland."

Vitaly Milonov, a deputy in St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly, famous for authoring that city's ban on so-called "gay propaganda," suggested not only stripping Makarevich of his state awards, but also banning his concerts in Russia.

Not Welcome In Crimea

In an interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service, Makarevich defended his decision to play in eastern Ukraine.

"First, [I went] because I was invited," he said. "Second, because performing for displaced persons, whoever and wherever they are, is in my opinion a good deed."

"And finally, when serious dramatic events are covered in the mass media in a way that I don't believe, the only way to find out what is actually happening there is to try and see it with your own eyes."

Rustam Temirgaliyev, the de facto prime minister of Russian-annexed Crimea, said Makarevich is now banned from performing on the peninsula.

"Mr Makarevich has become confused in his convictions and he must definitely abstain from giving concerts in Crimea," Temirgaliyev said. "With civil war in Ukraine, Makarevich is behaving dishonorably with regard to residents of the south east who with weapons in their hands are defending their right to life."

Makarevich said he also traveled to see the town of Slavyansk, which served as the rebel nerve center until separatists were forced from it by the Ukrainian army last month.

"On the outskirts of the city there is still a lot of very serious devastation. The fighting there was intense," Makarevich said.

"As for the city itself, the devastation is minor and the city is basically fully restored. There are still traces on broken bridges. But rubbish is collected, residents are returning. The fountain in the main square works, music plays, children run about, girls walk about. The atmosphere is entirely peaceful."

Valentin Baryshnikov of RFE/RL's Russian Service contributed to this report
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    Tom Balmforth

    Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics. He can be reached at balmfortht@rferl.org

     

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