Leading Russian cultural figures, including rock musician Zemfira, have responded to the recent events in Ukraine, which have plunged the country into political turmoil. At the time of going to press, Russia had issued Ukrainian forces an ultimatum: surrender Crimea or face military action. The ultimatum, widely reported in western media but denied by the Russian Defence Ministry, comes just days after Moscow bolstered its military presence in the Crimea triggering fears of war.
On Friday 1 March, before the incursion, Zemfira pledged her support to the demonstrators who ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych by dedicating her entire website to a video performance of Ukrainian song Let Me Go (Vidpusti). The video was recorded at a 2008 concert in Kiev which saw Zemfira sing the song in Ukrainian before praising its writer, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, the lead singer of Okean Elzy, as “the most talented composer in Ukraine”.
The video was a further show of support for the band whose concert on 28 February in St Petersburg was cancelled by a government official. Reacting to events in Ukraine, Vitaly Milonov, a deputy of the St Petersburg legislative assembly, described Vakarchuk and his band as “aggressive Russophobes” for their alleged support of the anti-government protests in Kiev’s Independence Square (Maidan).
Writing on his blog, popular novelist Boris Akunin, best known for his detective fiction, has also spoken out, describing Russia’s presence in Ukraine as “war-mongering”. The writer accused President Vladimir Putin of aggravating an already delicate relationship between Russia and Ukraine. He added: “Russia has crossed over from a plutocratic autocracy to a dictatorship.”
Last week, fantasy writer Sergei Lukyanenko adopted the opposite view on events by announcing a ban on his books being translated into Ukrainian. Lukyanenko took issue with the protesters in Kiev, comparing them to a “forced sex change”. The author of the Night Watch series of urban supernatural novels wrote on his blog: Ukraine is now a forsaken land, that will take three generations to overcome this villainy and cowardice … There is no such country as Ukraine, and there shall never be. Either it will be a part of Russia or else a Polish protectorate.”