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Belarusian Band 'Tricked' Into Singing For Yanukovych

Pesniary was hugely popular in Soviet times.
Pesniary was hugely popular in Soviet times.
As musical bands continue to display their political colors at competing pro- and anti-government rallies in Kyiv, one ensemble says it was tricked into performing for supporters of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Many fans of Belarus's Pesniary, a hugely popular Soviet-era band whose music was immortalized in the cult cartoon 'Nu Pogodi!", were dismayed to learn that Yanukovych supporters had been treated to some of Pesniary's hits at a pro-government rally that attracted about 15,000 people on December 14.

The concert took place in central Kyiv just a stone's throw from Independence Square, where thousands of protesters have been camped out for almost a month to protest Yanukovych's decision to shelve a landmark pact with the European Union.

The band -- one of three musical groups claiming to be Pesniary's legitimate modern-day incarnation -- now says it never intended to champion Ukraine's embattled president and deeply regrets the performance, which unfolded on the backdrop of a giant banner promoting Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

Musician Viktor Molchanov says his band was duped into singing at the so-called anti-Maidan rally -- the nemesis of the Independence Square protests, widely dubbed Euromaidan.

"The situation is very unpleasant. We were told we would perform at popular festivities. When we saw on television that European Square was hosting not popular festivities but anti-Maidan, we tried to refuse," Molchanov said. "They sought to convince us that it had nothing to do with politics, that we were not forced to endorse anyone, that all we had to do was sing our songs."


Molchanov insists the band fell victim to a "trap."

He said the musicians eventually gave in since the organizers had already paid for their bus tickets and accommodation in Kyiv.

While stopping short of supporting Ukraine's pro-European aspirations, Molchanov praised the Euromaidan protesters for "defending their future" and said Pesniary was willing to perform for them should the opportunity arise.

Pesniary pictured in 1976. There are currently three incarnations of the band.
Pesniary pictured in 1976. There are currently three incarnations of the band.

Among those riled by Pesniary's anti-Maidan performance is Vyacheslav Sharapov, the artistic director of the Belarusian State Ensemble Pesniary -- which also claims to be Pesniary's authentic successor.

Sharapov described Molchanov's band as "a fake" and said he was "embarrassed" by its performance in Kyiv.

He said his state-produced ensemble, which is officially backed by the Belarusian Culture Ministry, steers well clear of politics: "We would not like to be involved this political process. Why should we get involved and support any of the camps, regardless of our personal sympathies or antipathies? Our duty as a state ensemble is not to interfere."

One Belarusian band has not shied away from openly backing Ukraine's European aspirations.

Rock band Lyapis Trubetskoy performed at Euromaidan earlier this month, calling for an "independent Ukraine" and telling protesters that many in Belarus watched them "with respect, enthusiasm, and admiration."

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