Russian pop star’s war criticism sparks vigorous debate


A Russian mega-pop star’s criticism of President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has sparked intense reactions on social media, asking a crucial question: Will the iconic singer’s disapproving Instagram post mark a turning point? in Russian public opinion?

At the risk of being branded a traitor, Alla Pugacheva used her famous voice over the weekend to question the Seven Month War, becoming the most high-profile Russian celebrity to do so. Pugacheva’s message described the homeland that awarded her its highest civilian honors as “a pariah” and claimed that Russian soldiers were dying for “illusory purposes”.

It was a watershed moment, one that punched a hole in the Kremlin’s vigorously defended narrative of the reasons and aims of its February 24 invasion of neighboring Ukraine, threatening to undo months of carefully crafted war propaganda.

The singer, who has been arguably Russia’s most popular performer for decades, shared her thoughts as Putin faces increasing pressure both militarily – with Ukrainian forces retaking strategic areas from Russian troops – and diplomatically , with key allies expressing concern over the global fallout from the war .

At 73, Pugacheva is as widely admired as when she burst onto the Russian pop scene nearly half a century ago. Older Russians who grew up listening to his music form Putin’s hard core, remaining largely silent on the war.

The turning point for the singer was apparently the Russian Justice Ministry’s designation of Pugacheva’s husband, singer and TV presenter, Maxim Galkin, as a foreign agent on Saturday for allegedly carrying out political activities on behalf of Ukraine and receiving Ukrainian funds. Galkin had previously criticized the war.

In an Instagram post on Sunday, Pugacheva told her 3.5 million followers and others who saw her comments elsewhere that she also wanted to be added to Russia’s register of foreign agents, in solidarity with her husband.

She called her husband a “true and incorruptible patriot” who wants “an end to the death of our boys for illusory purposes which make our country a pariah and weigh heavily on the lives of its citizens”.

While public figures such as politicians, singers, actors and writers have spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine despite the Kremlin’s attempt to stifle dissent, Pugacheva is the most prominent celebrity. seen to date.

Her Instagram post was a major snub from a Kremlin and its predecessors who appointed Pugacheva as a People’s Artist of the USSR, awarded her the State Prize of the Russian Federation and decorated her as knight of the Order “for the merit of the fatherland”.

Meduza, a Latvian-based Russian-language news site that Russia has also declared a foreign agent, posted a summary of reactions to Sunday’s Instagram post, leading with a “no comment” on Monday from the chief spokesperson for the Kremlin.

Russian State Duma Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy said Pugacheva “has lost touch with reality so much and stands in solidarity with those who today wish Russia’s defeat.”

“She will no longer find support among decent Russians,” predicted Tolstoy, a close ally of Putin. He added, “We will win without his songs.”

Valery Fadeyev, the head of the Russian President’s Human Rights Council, has accused Pugacheva of insincerely citing humanitarian concerns to justify his criticism of the nearly 7-month-old conflict. He predicted that popular artists like her would enjoy less public influence after the war.

“New faces – soldiers, doctors, military correspondents, volunteers – will be our elite,” Fadeyev wrote.

Veteran Russian opposition Lev Shlosberg said the breadth of the responses shows Pugacheva’s comments struck a chord in Russian society.

“The reaction of sympathy and direct support shows in which direction public opinion will go,” he said, quoted by Meduza.

Veronika Belotserkovskaya, a popular Russian-language cookbook author and blogger who lives in France and has also questioned the war, thinks the singer’s criticism was not aimed at the masses but rather “written for power”.

“It’s a public slap in the face. … Everyone heard it. It speaks their language, destroying their narrative,” she said.

Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky, director of the Moscow think tank National Strategy Institute, went so far as to proclaim Pugacheva “the de facto leader of the anti-war part of Russian society”.

It is unclear what legal repercussions Pugacheva could face. On March 4, Putin signed a law authorizing prison sentences of up to 15 years for publishing false information about the military.

If the Russian government grants her wish to declare her a foreign agent, the singer would have to include the label prominently on her social media content and be subject to other financial and bureaucratic requirements.


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