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Ukrainian artists: 'Stop Putin now!'

Anastassia Boutsko
February 24, 2022

In an interview with DW, Ukrainian artists such as Oksana Lyniv and Andrei Kurkov call on the West to take more decisive action against Russia.

Portrait of Oksana Lyniv with conductor's baton at the Bayreuth Festival 2021.
Conductor Oksana Lyniv is very worried about her homelandImage: picture alliance/dpa/Bayreuther Festspiele

Anger, sadness and indignation at the inaction of world politics — these are the feelings that have been dominating the Ukrainian cultural scene. Now, Ukrainian artists are fearing for their families and friends, and whether they will be able to continue pursuing their beloved professions. Identifying the Russian state as an aggressor, their wave of anger can hardly be contained. DW spoke with some of them the day before the attacks on February 24, 2022.

Oksana Lyniv, conductor: 'The world has seen Putin's Russia's true face'

"At last, Putin's true intentions lie clear and open," says Oksana Lyniv. "He wants to destroy an independent state, a nation with its own culture, its own alphabet, its own language and history, its own artists, its own identity. Our development as a European state, for which we have worked for 30 years since independence and which has exacted a high price with the Maidan, is in acute danger.

Now, the world has seen Putin's Russia's true face, which is unfortunately far from the self-declared ideal image as a country of art and humanism. At the beginning of the development was the annexation of Crimea, which was condemned all over the world. Now, Putin has targeted all of Ukraine. In the decades of his rule, the dictator has built a police state in Russia. But in Ukraine, such a thing would not work, Ukrainians firmly reject impunity!

All those who still lulled themselves in post-Soviet memories and raved about the 'brother nation' have now received a decisive wake-up call. A true brother does not come to you with a gun and lie in wait at your door — only a murderer does that. Now is the time for the whole world to prove what the lessons of two world wars are worth to them in order to prevent a bloody battle in the middle of Europe."

Poet, translator, festival organizer -— but above all citizen: Serhij ZhadanImage: Maksym Kosmenko

Serhij Zhadan, poet and writer: 'We are citizens first and foremost'

"Today, we are first and foremost citizens, not artists. This is a fact always during a war. We are one country and one nation, we support our army, all my colleagues go to the front as volunteers. But we understand very well that the current situation is a transitional situation; it can also change from one day to the next. Of course, we all hope that this war will not spread further — to Kharkiv or Kyiv. While I am glad that some Russian artists have taken a clear position, their voices have no chance of being heard. I have many longtime friends, including artists and writers who actually believe that Ukraine wants to attack Russia and the like — that's where the Putin propaganda has already had its effect."

Filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa sees the situation as "chronically dramatic"Image: Angel Navarrete/El Mundo/imago images

Sergei Loznitsa, filmmaker: 'Unfortunately, history repeats itself'

"For eight years, the Russian Federation has been waging a war against Ukraine. For eight years, Western Europe has been trying to ignore this war, and has been cooperating with and supporting the aggressor. Now, we are all reaping the fruits of this 'far-sighted' policy of appeasing the enemy. Russian authorities have sabotaged and ridiculed all peace efforts and resorted to warfare. If there is no tough reaction from the EU and NATO countries now, it will end badly for everyone. Unfortunately, history repeats itself, and unfortunately, no one learns from it."

Has no illusions: Writer Andrei KurkovImage: Anke Waelischmiller/SVEN SIMON/picture alliance

Andrei Kurkov, writer: 'Where are the voices of artists from France, Germany, the US?'

"The next two weeks will decide what this whole story will end with — or not. Crucial to that will be the reaction of the European Union and the major industrialized nations to Putin's recognition of the so-called separatist republics in eastern Ukraine. A clear reaction would force Putin to either stop altogether or at least take a long break from his further actions. Unfortunately, as writers and artists in general, we have less influence on the situation than our colleagues did during World War I and World War II. The written, spoken word has lost weight. However, this does not mean that one should remain silent. So, it is already important for us in Ukraine that there is an open letter of Russian artists or a statement of the Russian PEN Center. I can only say: Finally! Because Russia's war against Ukraine has been going on for eight years. What I miss is a clear positioning of the leading artists from other countries of the world. Where are the voices of artists from France, Germany, the US? It is up to the artists to shake up their governments. Because the politicians obviously haven't understood yet how dangerous what's happening right now is for all of us."

Katya Petrovskaya became famous with her first novel "Maybe Esther." Today, she is afraid for her countryImage: Imago/Star-Media

Katya Petrovskaya, writer: 'The West must tighten its belt'

"No one can win the war that has just been sparked. And it's too late for talks. Total, effective sanctions are needed. The West must tighten its belt and renounce Russian oil and gas. We are dealing with a tyrant who earns from war — that is his source of money, his 'business model.' This has to stop."

This article was originally written in German.

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