A Russian pop star’s criticism of President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has sparked a backlash on social media, raising an important question: Is the singer’s protesting Instagram post? Does the symbol mark a turning point in Russian public opinion?
At risk of being branded a traitor, Alla Pugacheva used her famous voice over the weekend to question the seven-month war, becoming the most famous Russian celebrity to do so. Pugacheva’s post describes the homeland that has given her the highest civilian honors as “a pariah” and says Russian soldiers are dying for “futile goals”.
It was a watershed moment, one that broke a hole in the Kremlin’s heavily guarded narrative about the reasons and goals of the February 24 invasion of neighboring Ukraine, which threatened cancel months of carefully crafted war propaganda.
The singer, who has been arguably Russia’s most popular performer for decades, shares her thoughts as Putin faces growing pressure both militarily – Ukrainian forces are recapture strategic areas from the Russian military – and diplomatically, with key allies also expressing concern about the global outbreak from war.
At the age of 73, Pugacheva is as admired by many as when she burst onto the Russian pop scene nearly half a century ago. Older Russians who listen to her music are Putin’s core establishment, mostly silent about the war.
The turning point for the singer was apparently the Russian Ministry of Justice appointing Pugacheva’s husband, comedian and TV presenter Maxim Galkin, as a foreign agent on Saturday for allegedly conducting activities act politically on behalf of Ukraine and receive Ukrainian funding. Galkin has previously criticized the war.
In an Instagram post on Sunday, Pugacheva told her 3.5 million followers and others who had seen her comments elsewhere that she also wanted to be added to the list. Russia’s foreign agent, out of solidarity with her husband, whom she calls “a true patriot of integrity”. wants “to put an end to the deaths of our boys for vain goals that make our country a villain and weigh heavily on the lives of its citizens.”
While Russian public figures such as politicians, singers, actors and writers have spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine despite the Kremlin’s efforts to prevent dissent, Pugacheva is what Biggest name by far.
Her Instagram post was a huge slur of the Kremlin and its predecessors honoring Pugacheva as People’s Artist of the Soviet Union, awarding her the State Prize of the Russian Federation and honored her as the Chevalier of Order “for service to the country.” She is regularly featured and appeared on state television, for generations of audiences, especially nostalgic fans.
The Kremlin’s chief spokesman declined to comment on Monday but Meduza, a Latvian-based Russian-language news site that Russia has also claimed is a foreign spy, published a series of responses including at least one official voice.
Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma, Pyotr Tolstoy, said Pugacheva “has lost touch with reality too much and has solidarity with those who today expect Russia to fail.”
Tolstoy, a close ally of Putin, predicts: “She will no longer find the support of decent Russians. He added, “We wouldn’t have won without her songs.”
Valery Fadeyev, head of the Russian President’s Human Rights Council, accused Pugacheva of sincerely citing humanitarian concerns to justify his criticism of the nearly seven-month conflict. . He predicted that famous artists like her would have less influence on the public after the war.
“New faces – soldiers, doctors, military reporters, volunteers – will be our elite,” Fadeyev wrote.
Veteran Russian opposition activist Lev Shlosberg said the scale of the reactions showed that Pugacheva’s comments had touched nerves in Russian society.
“The reaction of approval and support directly shows which direction public opinion will move,” Meduza quoted him as saying.
Veronika Belotserkovskaya, a Russian-language cookbook author and famous blogger who lives in France and has also questioned the war, thinks the singer’s criticisms are not intended for the masses but instead is “written for power.”
“This is a slap in the face to the public. …Everybody hears her. She speaks their language, destroys their stories,” she said.
Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky, director of the Moscow-based Institute of National Strategy, has gone so far as to declare Pugacheva “the de facto leader of the antiwar part of Russian society.”
It is unclear what legal consequences Pugacheva may face. On March 4, Putin signed a law allowing prison sentences of up to 15 years for posting allegedly false information about the military.
If the Russian government allows her to want to declare her a foreign agent, the singer will have to put the label prominently on her social media content and be subject to other bureaucratic and financial requirements. .