Russian singers see their events canceled in Prague for Putin-friendly views

Grigory Leps and Stas Mikhailov will no longer perform at Forum Karlín following a Twitter user's posts underlining their pro-war beliefs.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 29.11.2022 15:17:00 (updated on 29.11.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Forum Karlín, a Prague hall that hosts events, yesterday decided to cancel the concerts of two Russian artists because of their sympathetic view of Russia’s Ukraine invasion. The decision comes following the exposé from a member of the public about the pair’s recent pro-war declarations.

Well-known singers Grigory Leps and Stas Mikhailov had been scheduled to perform at Forum Karlín in the spring of 2023. However, a Twitter user named Karel Růžička posted on Sunday evening a message saying “Russian artists who publicly support the war against Ukraine will perform in Prague's Forum Karlín,” complete with alleged evidence.

The Russian pair had previously posted images on social media that appeared sympathetic to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s decision to annex Crimea. For example, Leps posed on Instagram with the self–proclaimed head of the Donetsk People’s Republic and uploaded a photo wishing Putin, a happy birthday.

More explicitly, Mikhailov had written online that Russia is carrying out a justified operation of “demilitarization and denazification,” and called on Russians to unite and support Putin.

Forum Karlín responded swiftly – less than 24 hours later – on the social media site, announcing the cancellation of both Leps’s and Mikhailov’s performances.

"We will leave only Svetlana Lobodá's concert in the program, who openly speaks out against Russian aggression," the organization commented in reference to another Russian artist who outwardly condemns the war and is scheduled to play at Karlín in April 2023. She had previously displayed support for the Russian government but changed her tone following Putin's 2022 full-scale invasion.

This is not the first time that pro-war Russian guests have had scheduled events canceled for their Putin-sympathetic views. The Dvořák Prague music festival, which took place in September, canceled the performance of conductor Valery Gergiev, who is said to be a close friend and advocate of Putin. Pianist Denis Matsuev, who had also planned to perform at the Dvořák Prague event, was also unable to play.

Most recently, a show by Russian ballet star Sergei Polunin, who has expressed support for the war (and has three images of Putin tattooed on his chest), was also canceled in Czechia. 

Co-founder of famous rock band Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, earlier this year had his shows canceled in Poland following public “outrage” surrounding his Russia-sympathetic views. With Waters scheduled to play in Prague in May next year, it remains to be seen whether event organizers will follow the trend of recent events. So far, though, not only is Waters' Prague concert still scheduled but a second date has been added to high demand.

The decision to axe the shows of Mikhailov and Leps has triggered some debate on social media on the rights of free speech – on where it ends and when it becomes intolerable hate speech. 

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