There should be no space for Russian entertainment in the European Union — Ruslan Nimchynskyi

Statement by the Ukrainian ambassador to Cyprus Ruslan Nimchynskyi

On February 14-15 the Russian ballet is coming to Cyprus – Limassol and Nicosia – as part of the so-called Gala Ballet ‘Celebrate the Love’.

It is very disappointing that the Pattihio theatre in Limassol and Nicosia municipal theatre have decided to host Bolshoi, Mikhaylovsky and Kremlin ballet performers.

Before they attend a performance, Cypriot connoisseurs of art might want to know a bit more about the Russian “culture” they are supporting and how it proliferates in my country – Ukraine. My homeland will soon mark the grim one year anniversary of Russia’s so-called “special military operation”, an unprovoked, brutal invasion that has left thousands dead.

Russian troops and proxies in occupied Ukrainian territories have been looting museums, destroying art galleries, burning Ukrainian-language books in libraries and schools and forcefully imposing the Russian language in the territories they have invaded and terrorised.

On March 16, 2022 a powerful Russian bomb destroyed the Mariupol drama theatre. Nearly 600 people, mostly women and children, and several passersby on the street were killed. The theatre had been serving as a refuge for almost a thousand souls – innocent Mariupol civilians hiding from continuous bombardment – and was clearly marked as such.

In addition to the loss of life, according to the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, shelling by the Russian occupiers has resulted in the destruction of 361 religious buildings, libraries and museums. One hundred thirty-nine objects of cultural heritage, including museums, Orthodox churches, mosques and Ukrainian universities were destroyed and damaged according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) You can find out more at this link:

And it is not just things, not just buildings, but people, artists, creators who are being lost. World-renowned baritone and soloist of the Paris Opera, Vasyl Slipak, was killed fighting against Russian invaders. Yurii Kerpatenko, renowned principal conductor of the Kherson music and drama theatre, was shot dead in his home by Russian troops after refusing to participate in “festive concert” to demonstrate the “improvement of peaceful life” in Kherson just four months ago. Adding insult to injury, Slipak’s grave in the small Donetsk village he was from was destroyed by Russian soldiers.

How did the world’s cultural elite react to Russia’s invasion and brutality in Ukraine?

Shortly after in February 2022, the Metropolitan Opera stopped working with Russian artists. The European Broadcasting Union banned Russia from participating in the 2022 Eurovision competition. The Cannes Film Festival prohibited Russian delegations and individuals with links to the Russian government from attending its 75th gathering “unless the war of assault ends in conditions that will satisfy the Ukrainian people”.

And yet Cyprus’ connoisseurs of art are lining up in Limassol and Nicosia to support the “culture” that has brought untold deaths and suffering to Ukraine. As of today, by the most conservative estimates, 461 Ukrainian children have been killed, 922 wounded, 348 are missing. Sixteen thousand two hundred and seven Ukrainian children have been abducted and deported to Russia.

To those who would argue that “culture is beyond politics” I say you are wrong.  The Metropolitain Opera says so, the European Broadcasting Union says so, the Cannes Film Festival and many, many others say so. There should be no space for Russian entertainment in the European Union for as long as Russian soldiers are killing innocents and systematically working to wipe Ukrainian culture, language, literature, faith and the Ukrainian people from existence.

I call on Cypriots who value culture, who understand the need to preserve, cultivate and create to join the world in saying Oxi! (no) to Russian ballet performances in the Republic of Cyprus. Refuse to support those committing cultural genocide in Ukraine. Call for these performances to be cancelled. Do not hide from the harsh reality of war behind pink tutus.

Help us end the war against Ukraine.