Ukrainians Use Powerful Music To Express Protest As Russia Declares War


February 24, 2022, 5:38 PM

Ukrainians sing the national anthem during the Unity March for Ukraine in downtown Lviv on February 19.

Photo: Aliyah

As Russia invades Ukraine, musicians around the world play and sing for peace…

On the morning of February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Attacks took place across the country, including in the capital, Kyiv.

World leaders have condemned the move and several countries have already pledged significant sanctions against Russia following the news.

The day before the invasion, Ukrainian citizens gathered in the town square of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine and sang the national anthem. Video footage also appeared on Twitter of Polish and Russian citizens singing to show solidarity through music (see below).

Ukrainian musician, Sofia Yatsuk, 26, spoke to Classic FM about her concern for her family and friends in the country.

“My whole family is made up of musicians,” she said. “And they’re all obviously panicking and scared. Until today, this all still seemed somewhat hypothetical. I think people were leading normal lives and still hoping that the war could be avoided. But of course, today, everything has changed.

“Now I don’t think people think about their careers, or things like concert cancellations, it’s just a matter of survival at this point.”

Yatsuk, who is currently studying for his doctorate in violin performance at McGill University in Canada, expressed his guilt at being so far from his family at this time.

“A friend of mine this morning said he had to flee at 5 a.m. because they were under shelling in Kharkiv,” adds Yatsuk, “I think for someone who is not currently living in Ukraine, you just have this huge sense of guilt.

“I’m going to demonstrate in Montreal at 3 p.m. and it’s the least we can do. I talk to my family as much as possible, but you feel very guilty and helpless.

Protests are taking place around the world and in the UK protests are currently underway outside 10 Downing Street.

Joining the protest was Ukrainian baritone Yuriy Yurchuk, who most recently appeared in Tosca at the Royal Opera House in London. The 35-year-old international opera singer was filmed by Classic FM singing his country’s national anthem amid the protest.

Yurchuk told Classic FM that he “sings for peace. And as a sign of support and solidarity for all Ukrainians.”

Read more: The Ukrainian opera baritone sings his national anthem at 10 Downing Street in a ‘call for peace’

Protesters gathered outside the British Prime Minister’s residence in London to demand tougher sanctions be imposed on Russia. Chants heard at the protest included “Hands off Ukraine” and “Stop Putin, Stop the War”.

Organized by community group London Euromaidan, made up of Ukrainians and Europeans living in London, the group is calling for tougher sanctions on Russia, including freezing the British assets of 50 oligarchs and blocking President Putin’s funds.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised that the UK and its allies will use a “massive sanctions package” that will “hamper the Russian economy”.

On Tuesday, February 22, the United States announced sanctions against Russia, announced by President Joe Biden, ahead of the planned attack. The sanctions target two major financial institutions, Russian sovereign debt and Russian elites and their family members.

Ukrainians stage a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine outside Downing Street in central London

Ukrainians stage a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine outside Downing Street in central London.

Photo: Aliyah

Demonstrations are also taking place in the United States, and some have moved to the concert hall.

Russian conductor Valery Gergiev is due to lead the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for three performances at Carnegie Hall in New York this weekend.

However, his appearance has been repeatedly disputed due to the conductor’s close ties to the Russian president. Critics fear applause for Gergiev at Carnegie Hall this weekend will be received in Moscow as applause for Putin.

In 2014, the bandleader gave a pro-Putin interview, justifying the Russian president’s previous intervention in Ukraine, and critics suggest it’s likely the musician’s stance hasn’t changed.

The Carnegie Hall website saw heavy traffic on February 24, with visitors reporting wait times of up to a quarter of an hour.

Elsewhere in the music world, the Eurovision Song Contest issued a statement following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying the two countries have yet to enter the singing competition scheduled for May 2022.

The statement read: “The Eurovision Song Contest is an apolitical cultural event that unites nations and celebrates diversity through music.

“EBU member public broadcasters in Russia and Ukraine are committed to participating in this year’s event in Turin and we are currently planning to welcome artists from both countries to perform in May.

“We will of course continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Pop musicians from Ukraine and Russia are also publicly condemning President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on their personal social media.

Musician Nadezhda (Nadya) Tolokonnikova, a member of the Russian protest group Pussy Riot, posted on Instagram on the morning of February 24, 2022 that “Putin just started a war with Ukraine”, and called the president a “clown- psychopath” in his stories.

Ivan Dorn, one of Ukraine’s best-known singers, appealed to his Russian fans on Instagram, saying, “Please…spread the message that Ukraine is an independent state and sovereign. Please let’s stop this disaster”. The famous musician was a trainer on The Voice of Ukraine and a judge for X factor Ukraine.

Ukrainian folk group DakhaBrakha also shared online that they will be canceling their upcoming concerts and “hope to play them in the near future”.

Music in Ukraine has helped the country assert its own cultural identity, an identity threatened by Putin.

On Monday, February 21, Putin declared that “modern Ukraine was created entirely by Russia,” in a televised speech on state television.

Some Ukrainian artists have made a cultural boycott of Russia, in order to prove that this is not the case. More and more artists choose to sing in Ukrainian rather than Russian and adopt their own musical styles.

Speaking to Classic FM, Yatsuk added, “Culture, people’s passion, language, all of that is at stake right now.

“Obviously people’s lives are most important, first and foremost, but there’s everything else that comes with that.”


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