Europe

Russian rock star Makarevich attacked for Ukraine songs

Andrei Makarevich Image copyright Andrei Makarevich

A veteran Russian rock star has been accused of betraying his country after performing in a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by the Ukrainian army.

A prominent MP and other Kremlin supporters say Andrei Makarevich, a critic of Russian policy on Ukraine, should lose his state honours.

But some allies have defended him.

The 60-year-old rocker founded the band Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine) in 1969. He performed for children displaced by the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Political attacks

United Russia party MP Yevgeny Fedorov denounced Makarevich over his 12 August concert for children from Donetsk and Luhansk.

Fedorov said he should be stripped of his state honours, including one "For Services to the Motherland".

Image copyright YouTube / SlavyanskaUA
Image caption Makarevich performed for the children of displaced people but many more watched and listened from outside the venue

"Andrei Makarevich has collaborated with fascists for a long time," Mr Fedorov told the pro-Kremlin Izvestia daily. "I think he must be stripped of all these awards."

Mr Fedorov is calling for changes to legislation "to allow anyone who betrays their motherland to be stripped of state awards", Izvestia reports.

The musician must be punished, agreed nationalist politician Eduard Limonov in Izvestia. "An old grey-haired idiot... performed for [Ukrainian] occupation troops... He insulted us by breaching our unanimous condemnation of the corrupt Kiev regime.

Image copyright other
Image caption Makarevich, left, seen here in 1978, wrote hit songs for rock band Mashina Vremeni

"It is necessary to show Ukraine and the world that he is an outcast."

On state-run Rossiya 1 TV, prominent film director Nikita Mikhalkov, a firm supporter of President Vladimir Putin, weighed in. "Can you imagine if [Soviet singer Klavdiya] Shulzhenko had come to sing in Minsk when it was occupied by the Germans [in World War Two]? That's what I think of this."

Many Russians sympathise with the pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian government troops in eastern Ukraine. Western governments accuse the Kremlin of fomenting the rebellion.

Makarevich will keep his awards, predicted Marina Ozerova in the popular daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets. "The idea was voiced by only one deputy, Yevgeny Fedorov of United Russia, who is known for his exotic initiatives, to put it mildly, that rarely become law."

The musician may even benefit from the affair, said Maria Mikhaylova in the liberal daily Novye Izvestia. "I don't think Makarevich will lose a lot if stripped of his awards. He may even rise in the estimation of many people... Proposals like this one come from the enemies of Russia."

Image copyright YouTube/Radio Liberty
Image caption Makarevich faced hostility in March after attending a peace march in Moscow wearing ribbons in the colours of the Ukrainian flag

Makarevich told Ekho Moskvy radio that he was not worried about losing his awards, but was angry about the damage to his reputation. He said he might sue Mr Fedorov for libel.

'Hysterics'

There is backing for Makarevich among social media users.

"I'd like to show Andrei Makarevich how many supporters he has," said the internationally renowned Russian writer Boris Akunin on Facebook. "One 'like' here is the same as saying: 'All you hysterics, lackeys and simple idiots, leave Makarevich alone!'"

The post received more than 40,000 likes in less than 24 hours. Makarevich acknowledged the online support: "I'm receiving a huge number of messages... Many thanks to you all!"

Makarevich faced similar hostility in March, after he attended a peace march in Moscow wearing ribbons in the colours of the Ukrainian flag.

Thousands of people signed an online petition calling for him to be stripped of his state decorations for marching "with murderers from the Maydan" - a reference to the Kiev protests which toppled former President Viktor Yanukovych.

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