Queen of Soviet pop assails Putin’s war in Ukraine

LONDON (Reuters): Alla Pugacheva, the queen of Soviet pop music, on Sunday denounced President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine which she said was killing soldiers for illusory aims, burdening ordinary people and turning Russia into a global pariah.

Since the Feb. 24 invasion, Russia has cracked down on dissent, with fines for artists who make anti-war comments. State TV casts critics as traitors to the motherland.

Pugacheva, 73, a Soviet and then post-Soviet icon who is probably Russia’s most famous woman, requested Russia also class her as a “foreign agent” after her husband, 46-year-old TV comedian Maxim Galkin, was on Sept. 16 included on the state’s list.

“I ask you to include me among the ranks of foreign agents of my beloved country because I am in solidarity with my husband,” Pugacheva said on Instagram which is banned in Russia.

Pugacheva said her husband was a patriot who wanted a prosperous country with peace, freedom and an “end to the death of our boys for illusory aims.”

Russia, Pugacheva said, was becoming a “pariah” while the lives of Russians were being drained by the conflict. She did not use the word war but made clear her disapproval of what the Kremlin calls a special military operation.

Such penetrating criticism from one of Russia’s most famous people — known across generations for hits such as the 1982 song “Million Scarlet Roses” and the 1978 film “The Woman who Sings” — is rare, and potentially dangerous, in modern Russia.

It also indicates the level of concern within the broader Russian elite about the war.

Labelling someone a “foreign agent” is often the first sign of serious trouble from authorities. The label has negative Soviet-era connotations and its bearers have to place it prominently on all content that they publish. They also face arduous financial and bureaucratic requirements.

Pugacheva has in the past been feted by both Putin and Boris Yeltsin. When Mikhail Gorbachev died, she praised the last Soviet leader for allowing freedom and rejecting violence.

Putin now casts the war in Ukraine as an attempt to prevent Western attempts to destroy Russia — a plot he says will fail like the invasions of the Nazis in 1941 and Napoleon in 1812.

Ukraine says it is fighting an imperial-style occupation by Russia and will not stop until the last soldier is ejected.

The war has killed tens of thousands, unleashed an inflationary wave through the global economy and raised geopolitical tensions to levels not seen since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.