When Vladimir Putin gave a Paul McCartney concert on Red Square nearly two decades ago this month, Andrei Makarvich starred alongside the Russian president as the former Beatles performed on “Back In The USSR.”
Five years later, Makarevich – one of Russia’s most famous rock stars – gave a concert in Red Square in support of Putin and his carefully chosen successor, Dmitry Medvedev, and said he already supports the ruling duo.
But since Russia’s seizure and occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, Makarevich has become an outspoken critic of Putin’s expansionism. And after the Russian leader launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February, the rock star carried a message to those embracing Putin’s war and the Latin letter “Z” propagated by the government as a national symbol.
“They can stop,” said Makarevich, founder of the legendary Russian rock band Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine), in an interview with Current Time, the Russian-speaking channel run by RFE / RL in cooperation with VOA.
Like many prominent Russian artists, Makarvich, 68, has been away to Israel since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Some of these celebrities — such as Makarvich’s fellow rock star Boris Grebenshchikov and showman Maxim Galkin — have publicly criticized the war, a position now fraught with legal peril amid an escalating crackdown on dissent in Russia.
Makarvich says the invasion has become a red line for him.
Before hostilities began, and before people began to die, I fully understood that people could have different views of the same thing. But when it suddenly turned into a war, and someone shouted, “Okay!” – Then I cross out that person, ”Makarvich said.
Much worse than 1968
Makarvich, who says his music career was inspired by the Beatles, founded his band Time Machine in 1969. While the band was admired by many in the Soviet underground rock scene, authorities never considered them subversive before, but rather continued to achieve the mainstream. the condition.
In a 2008 interview with RFE/RL’s Russian Service, Makarevich defended his decision to play the Red Square event in support of Medvedev’s presidency, calling Putin’s designated candidate the most reasonable and acceptable option.
But three years later, when Putin chose to return to the presidency, Makarevich expressed his disappointment, saying that the Russians were “stealing the rest of our electoral rights.”
Following Makarevich’s criticism of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine in 2014, Kremlin loyalists called him a traitor, and his concerts were canceled.
While Russian officials have denounce Makarvich said of what they call the abolition of culture targeting Russians and Russian culture in the West after the invasion of Ukraine, he has not experienced this personally since he left Russia.
“I travel around the world a lot now and I am invited to give concerts. I am traveling to Cyprus now. Georgia asks. They probably won’t call if there is some kind of “cancellation of Russian culture”.
Makarvich likened Russia’s war against Ukraine to the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, but said the current war was “much worse”.
“What is happening in Ukraine is much worse in terms of misery than what happened at that time in Prague,” he said.
Amid mounting evidence of war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, Makarevich said he could not speak on behalf of Russian soldiers, but said they should not carry out criminal orders.
“It is on their conscience. This is their decision.
Russia has denied targeting civilian areas in a war that insists on calling for a special operation, although reporters – including RFE/RL reporters on the ground – have documented numerous cases of such attacks. Moscow has also spread clearly false conspiracy theories alleging that Ukraine orchestrated incidents involving possible war crimes.
Asked if he envisioned any scenario in which he would not return to Russia, Makarevich said: “I don’t think so.”
“I am waiting for events that I, unfortunately, cannot influence,” he said.
Makarvich added that he continues to follow the news of the war.
“I feel like I did on the first day [of the war]He said: It is disgusting. “That’s all I can say.”
Written by Carl Schreck at RFE/RL based on a report by Andrei Tsyganov from Current Time