The Daily Telegraph

‘Russian Dolly Parton’ rails against invasion

As Ukraine makes ground in Luhansk, popular singer says Putin is ‘pointlessl­y sending young men to die’

- By James Kilner

‘Alla Pugacheva speaking out against the war is quite a landmark moment. She is equal to Putin in social standing, or bigger’

A RUSSIAN pop-star with a claim to be the country’s most famous woman has criticised Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, saying it is pointlessl­y sending young men to die.

Alla Pugacheva rose to stardom in the late Sixties and sold more than 250 million records, winning a string of national awards alongside plaudits from Boris Yeltsin and Mr Putin himself.

In a statement on Instagram, the 73-year-old said: “The death of our boys for illusory aims makes our country a pariah and weighs down on the lives of our citizens.”

Analysts say her remarks could bring dissent to new audiences among the apolitical or supporters of the Kremlin.

Viv Groskop, the British comedian and author of a book on Russian culture, said that Pugacheva was “arguably the biggest star in Russia” and the “Russian Dolly Parton”.

Ms Pugacheva asked Russia’s justice ministry to declare her a “foreign agent” alongside her husband, the TV comedian and talk-show host Maxim Galkin. Both fled the country at the start of the invasion.

The “foreign agent” label has negative, Soviet-era connotatio­ns and its bearers have to place it on all content they publish. They also face financial and bureaucrat­ic requiremen­ts.

Ms Pugacheva’s request to be labelled a foreign agent places the Kremlin in a bind, commentato­rs said. Joshua Yaffa, an author on Russia and correspond­ent for the New Yorker, said it was “unclear how the Kremlin responds”.

“Pugacheva is as close to universall­y loved national royalty as it gets – admired as much or more by otherwise apolitical, war-ignoring masses across the country than urban intelligen­tsia,” he wrote on Twitter.

Russia’s leaders have long sought to associate themselves with Ms Pugacheva, whose biggest hit is a 1983 cover of the Soviet love song Million Scarlet Roses.

On her 60th birthday in 2009, thenpresid­ent Dmitry Medvedev awarded her the 3rd Degree Order of Merit for the Fatherland. Mr Putin invited Ms Pugacheva to awards ceremonies at the Kremlin and photo shoots.

Ksenia Sobchak, the Russian socialite and Mr Putin’s goddaughte­r, has backed Pugacheva. She told her 1.25 million Telegram viewers, crypticall­y, that Ms Pugacheva would “outlive you all”.

“Alla Pugacheva speaking out against the war is quite a landmark moment,” Russia analyst Leonid Ragozin wrote on Twitter. “No way Putin can get around it. She is equal to him in social standing terms. Or bigger.”

In Ukraine, the fiercest fighting continued to focus on the Oskil River in the northeast, 75 miles east of Kharkiv.

Russian forces fled across the river to escape a Ukrainian offensive that recaptured an area roughly the size of Devon.

Reports say Ukrainian forces had broken through the Russian defences and crossed the Oskil River, described by analysts as the last line of defence ahead of the Luhansk region.

The Us-based Institute for the Study of War said morale and leadership credibilit­y had plummeted so low in the Russian army that they were picking off “meaningles­s” soft targets rather than reinforcin­g their frontline along the Oskil River.

“The Russians ... appear to be continuing an almost robotic effort to gain ground in Donetsk Oblast that seems increasing­ly divorced from the overall realities of the theatre,” it said.

 ?? ?? Alla Pugacheva, one of Russia’s most popular singers, fled the country with her husband after the invasion of Ukraine in February
Alla Pugacheva, one of Russia’s most popular singers, fled the country with her husband after the invasion of Ukraine in February

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