Soviet superstar vilified for defying Moscow on Ukraine26 august 2014, 14:20
Non-conformist rocker Andrei Makarevich walked a thin line in Soviet times but his outspoken stance on Ukraine has seen him savagely pilloried by the Russian establishment, AFP reports.
Russian media and officials have rounded on Makarevich, 60, for having "supported Kiev's anti-Russian policy" by playing a concert for refugees earlier this month in the eastern Ukrainian town of Svyatogorsk after government forces retook it from pro-Russian separatists after weeks of fighting.
The attacks on Makarevich by state-run media reached such a fever pitch that the musician pleaded Monday to Russian President Vladimir Putin to put a halt to them.
Makarevich, the leader of the legendary band Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine), has spoken out against Moscow's policy on Ukraine since February, when Russia began presenting the uprising in Kiev as being led by fascists.
"I don't remember such an orgy of propaganda and lies since the best Brezhnev years," Makarevich wrote on his blog at the time, referring to the Soviet leader of the 1960s and 1970s under whom communist ideology was particularly rigid and reactionary.
Makarevich knows that period well.
He formed Time Machine at the end of the 1960s with a bunch of fellow Moscow students enamoured with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
As Soviet authorities did not approve of rock music, homemade copies of the band's music were passed hand-to-hand by fans.
While Makarevich never openly confronted Soviet power, the lyrics of Time Machine's songs were littered with allusions to freedom and double-meaning satirical swipes at communist society.
However Makarevich was quick to criticise the Kremlin over Ukraine and took part in an anti-war demonstration in March.
Russia annexed the Crimea from Ukraine in March and has provided moral and -- Kiev and the West claim -- material support to pro-Russian rebels who later seized swathes of the eastern part of the country.
Some 2,200 people have been killed in the fighting, with and 400,000 more fleeing their homes.
'He must be punished'
Russia's state-controlled television stations went into overdrive against Makarevich over the concert he played in Ukraine.
One national TV news programme launched a nine-minute tirade that said the concert "is not simply self-expression, it is propoganda support" for Kiev.
Another called Makarevich "one of the 13 friends of the junta" among Russian artists and lawmakers.
A deputy from the ruling United Russia party, Yevgeny Fyodorov, called for Makarevich to be stripped of his state medals, including the prestigious "People's Artist" honour.
An online petition to strip him of his honours has already gathered more than 25,000 signatures, a treatment the Soviet Union used to reserve for dissidents.
Another lawmaker, Dmitry Litvintsev, said that Makarevich could be kicked out of the country, as some Soviet dissidents were.
"We have examples when people were forced out of the country," he was quoted as saying in the Izvestia newspaper. "Maybe we should send him to Ukraine. Let him live there."
The attacks have sometimes been below the belt, with Ivzestiya publishing an interview in which radical writer and politician Eduard Limonov called Makarevich a drunken idiot suffering from the "male menopause" who must be punished.
"If Russia doesn't punish him, then it vindicates him," he said.
Russian media have also broadcast what could be considered threats against him.
The pro-Kremlin Life News showed a rebel fighter saying "I won't guarantee his safety if he comes here" as he now supports Russia's enemies.
While Makarevich has remained defiant, he pleaded to Putin to put a stop to the media storm against him.
"For three weeks the flood of dirt and slander against me in newspapers and TV screens hasn't stopped," he wrote in an open letter published on the website of the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily.
"Mr President, I implore you to halt this orgy tarnishing my name," Makarevich wrote.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on Makarevich's letter but said it was "impossible" for the president to respond to all who write to him.
Makarevich insisted that he has done nothing wrong by giving the concert for refugees.
"I don't feel guilty about that at all," he wrote in the open letter.
Makarevich plans to hold a benefit concert for Ukrainian refugees in Moscow in early September.
Last week he said he stands by his opinions about Ukraine.
"Unfortunately all that is happening with us now and which will happen, shows that I am right."
Makarevich is not one to shaken from his convictions.
"Don't stoop to the changing world / Let it stoop to us / One day it will stoop to us," goes the refrain to a popular Time Machine song.
by Richard LEIN