Category: Uncategorized

Press Release: Artists of War and Aggression Make Cultural Venues Worry About Reputational Damage (by Arts Against Aggression)

Since 2014 “Arts Against Aggression” engages in educating local communities about the ongoing aggression and war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. Our educational campaigns are aimed at raising awareness of the US public and cultural institutions of the Russian hybrid soft power war against the US, as well as exposing the Russian cultural elite who openly and vocally supported the war.

We write to update you on the recently concluded US tour of musician Igor Butman, one of the staunchest supporters of the current Russian regime, an open supporter of Russia’s ongoing aggression and war against Ukraine and annexation of Crimea which has caused immeasurable suffering and killed thousands of people in Ukraine. In March 2014 Mr. Butman was one of the signatories of an open letter in support of Russian President Putin’s policy of war, occupation and annexation in Ukraine and Crimea[1]. That policy was condemned internationally by many countries including the United States.

Mr. Butman, a US citizen, is a member of Putin’s “United Russia” party and has shown such undivided loyalty to the Russian regime as to advance and become a member of the Supreme Council of the party together with the highest ruling Russian “nomenklatura”.  US citizen Butman openly spoke of his disregard of the American oath of allegiance, saying that everyone says those words at naturalization and the reason he became US citizen was visa free travel.  US citizen Butman also served as President Putin’s reelection confidant during the Russian presidential campaign. Mr. Butman has made no secret of his performances in Crimea, possibly in violation of the US Presidential executive order imposing sanctions on the Russian-occupied region and prohibiting exports of US goods and services there.

In an eerie resemblance with the rewards the leaders of the Third Reich lavished on artists and musicians who openly collaborated with their regime, US citizen Butman’s loyalty to Putin’s Russian regime of war and aggression has been lavishly rewarded. As a few examples, his orchestra, as well as his newly opened Jazz Academy in Moscow, are funded by the Russian government.

By the time Mr. Butman started his US tour in 2020, his reputation has been already damaged to the extent that several jazz clubs canceled his scheduled US performances (such as Regatta Bar in Boston, the Blue Llama in Ann Arbor, and the Promontory club in Chicago) and cut short his whole tour. Those cancellations were the result of the coordinated educational campaigns of the “Arts Against Aggression” activists who wrote letters to the owners, managers and patrons of those venues and clubs, as well as to the media, informing them of the possible reputational damage of providing their venues to Mr. Butman. [2]

From the very beginning of Mr. Butman’s 2020 US tour in New York, his performances were greeted by four consecutive days of sustained protests and educational campaigns by our sister group Signerbusters. Dozens of people who had tickets to the performances decided not to attend, and some of them even choose to join the protesters. Mr. Butman dismissed the protestors as “not really adequate[3]. After New York performances, Mr. Butman’s next stop was Washington DC.

During his performance at the Russian Embassy in Washington, US citizen Butman made no secret that his US tour was a part of the Russian propaganda machine which used government-owned media platforms to announce and promote Mr. Butman’s US tour. For example, Russia Today, a propaganda channel registered as foreign agent in the US, ran an interview with Mr. Butman as a part of the promotional campaign of his tour[4].

Protests against Mr. Butman’s appearances continued in Boston where Jewish Educational and Cultural Center Makor gave him a venue after the Regatta Bar cancellation. As reported by The Boston Globe, Mr. Butman and attendees of his Boston show were greeted by «The real price of Russian Jazz” installation, a life-sized cardboard cutout of President Putin and visually striking stand-ins for Putin’s victims: free press, civil rights, freedom of expression, minority rights, free and fair elections, and the Constitution[5]. The installation emphasized that most of the price for this and other performances by Mr. Butman was paid by Russia’s civil society.

It is worth noting that Mr. Butman has repeatedly stated he is just a musician, that he brings his jazz music to people and that he does not engage in politics. This is shamelessly hypocritical, of course, because the principle of keeping art separate from politics may be a good one under democratic regimes and in peacetime, but, as Mr. Butman’s example demonstrates, it cannot function in an authoritarian reign of brutality and war.

Press in the US has done some coverage of reputational and other damage of accepting or acquiescing to the “soft power” exerted in the United States by unsavory foreign regimes or outright corrupt powers. There is nothing new about foreign regimes’ buying influence and reputation by exerting such soft power: Goebbels and the Third Reich have been notorious for doing that, from hosting the 1936 Olympics in Berlin to financing Berlin Philharmonic’s tours abroad. Two such articles were published by The Boston Globe in 2014 and 2017 on the Putin supporter’s recitals in Boston[6],[7]. There were two later articles published by The New York Times in 2019 aimed to disclose more facts and information on the unsavory foreign donations as disguised means of exerting influence and such power [8],[9].

For the first time since 2014 cultural venues in the US have come to an understanding that Putin’s Russia is actively using art and culture in waging a hybrid war against western moral and cultural values. Such powers are often exerted on some of the best and famous venues to provide access to those venues to Putin’s loyal cultural emissaries. While some of the venues in the US have started to refuse their appearances, we urge such iconic venues as Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, David Geffen Hall, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra to stop supporting performances of openly politically tainted artists including Valery Gergiev, Denis Matsuev, Anna Netrebko, Hibla Gerzmava, Vladimir Spivakov, Yury Bashmet and others. Their political actions and unequivocally damaged political reputation extend well beyond their musical activities.

[1] The website of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation: https://www.mkrf.ru/press/news/deyateli-kultury-rossii-v-podderzhku-pozitsii-prezidenta-po-ukraine-i-krymu20171009103201 .

An English translation is available here: https://russianartists4war.com/letter/ , Mr. Butman is signatory #63.

[2] Cambridge Day: Regattabar shouldn’t give time to Butman, Putin supporter, member of United Russia

http://www.cambridgeday.com/2019/12/09/regattabar-shouldnt-give-time-to-butman-putin-supporter-member-of-united-russia/

[3] Urdu Point: Russian Jazz Legend Butman Denounces Protest Against His Concert In Boston https://www.urdupoint.com/en/world/russian-jazz-legend-butman-denounces-protest-828695.html

[4] RT America: Russian-born jazz virtuoso Igor Butman discusses US-Russia relations and the power of music https://www.rt.com/shows/news-with-rick-sanchez/480090-news-with-rick-sanchez-february/

[5] The Boston Globe: Russian saxophonist met with protests in Brooklinehttps://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/02/13/lifestyle/pro-putin-saxophonist-igor-butman-met-with-protesters-brookline/

[6] The Boston Globe: Russian musicians’ support for Putin not playing wellhttps://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/style/2014/06/13/pro-putin-classical-performers-facing-music-abroad/0wvZRpjd0hfzEmdMK3OWAN/story.html

[7] The Boston Globe: Pro-Putin musicians to face protests at Boston concert https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2017/05/31/pro-putin-musicians-face-protests-boston-concert/68dzMVAUBK8VHCRhkXMH8O/story.html

[8] The New York Times: Oligarchs, as U.S. Arts Patrons, Present a Softer Image of Russia https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/06/arts/russia-oligarchs-arts.html

[9] The New York Times: Has a U.S. College Given Russia Too Friendly a Platform? https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/06/arts/american-university-russian-influence.html

Putin’s Booster at the Blue Note Jazz Club in January/February 2020.

To: Danny Bensunan, CEO, The Blue Note Jazz Club
Dear Mr. Bensunan,

We are writing to you to express our deep disappointment that the Blue Note Jazz Club has chosen to offer a platform to Igor Butman, a prominent and vocal supporter of Russia’s criminal regime as a whole and of Russian President Putin personally. It is more than unfortunate that at the time when the United States is providing military aid to Ukraine for the express purpose of enabling it to effectively resist Russian military aggression, and when prominent musical venues such as the RegattaBar in Cambridge and Blue Llama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor are cancelling performances by Mr. Butman, the Blue Note is jeopardizing its reputation in the community by affirmatively choosing to host this emissary of Russian aggression.

1F8998F3-3290-4AF7-B568-4C61BF8ABC4D

In March 2014, Mr. Butman was among the 511 Russian cultural figures who signed a letter in support of the policies of the Russian President Putin on Ukraine and Crimea—policies of occupation and annexation that are illegal under international law and are specifically condemned by the United States. The letter is available at the website of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. An English translation is available here: Mr. Butman’s signature is number 63.)

These policies, still unequivocally supported by Mr. Butman, have since resulted in thousands dead Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, hundreds of thousands injured, and millions displaced. These are the same policies that led directly to the murder of 298 passengers of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 by a Russian BUK missile in July of 2014. Despite international condemnation and mounting human and infrastructure costs, both to Ukraine and to Russia, in the five and a half years since Mr. Butman signed the letter, he has not taken any steps to repudiate the policy or to withdraw his signatures.

 

DEE3D039-6B56-4F57-B753-8566C6EEC1B4

To the contrary, Igor Butman continues to be a proud and devoted supporter of Vladimir Putin and his policies and continues to take actions to support and legitimize Russian aggression in Ukraine. For example, despite being personally warned by the U.S. State Department that as a US citizen he should not attend a jazz festival in Russian-occupied Crimea (as that would be in violation of the US and EU sanctions), Mr. Butman went to Crimea as a self-proclaimed “messenger of peace,” hypocritically claiming that jazz is above politics.

Mr. Butman also participates in more informal but no less significant events where he leverages his artistic reputation to support Russia’s authoritarian leader. For example, he regularly participates in staged hockey games with Mr. Putin, former Russian national team players, and other celebrities. These spectacles are produced for one purpose only— to strengthen Mr. Putin’s domestic popularity.

61D7116F-F8F3-4842-A120-9FFB735DB3CA

Similar to many other cultural figures loyal to Mr. Putin, Mr. Butman seeks to have it both ways — he wants to use his artistic reputation to support the bloody regime for Russian domestic consumption, while presenting himself to his international audiences as an emissary of peace through culture. We call upon you to not enable this sick game by lending Mr. Butman your stage.

We would also like to highlight Mr. Butman’s cynical view of his US citizenship. In 2015, as reported by RIA News, Mr. Butman stated that he applied for American citizenship for the convenience that it offered him in traveling the world without the need for visas. This was in response to the Alexei Navalny, a prominent opposition leader in Russia, who questioned Mr. Butman’s commitment to the US by pointing out that the citizenship oath taken by Mr. Butman upon his naturalization contains a promise to take up arms to defend the homeland if necessary. Mr. Navalny rightfully noted that it was doubtful that a member of the Supreme Council of Mr. Putin’s party has any intention to defend the US in any way.

Mr. Butman’s attitude is offensive to us as naturalized American citizens who cherish the rights and obligations of our citizenship. As people who also took that very same oath, we would further note that the oath begins with an unequivocal renunciation of  “all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which [the person taking the oath had] theretofore been a subject or citizen…” A seat on the Supreme Council of United Russia does not seem to be in keeping with this oath. It is noteworthy that United Russia is known internationally not only for being Mr. Putin’s party, but also for its endorsement of Russia’s anti-gay law, the law prohibiting international adoption of Russian children, the law decriminalizing domestic abuse, and other laws contrary to International norms for human rights.

The Blue Note  is a well-known and respected venue in New York City. We find it profoundly incongruent that an on-the-record supporter of international war crimes is invited to play music that for close to a century has been a symbol of freedom of expression and respectfully call on you to reconsider allowing Mr. Butman to perform at your venue.

Sincerely,

Arts Against Aggression

 

09C25006-7924-4692-AE20-D802C02FD246.jpeg

 

About Igor Butman and Arts Against Aggression:

Wiki: Igor Butman

The New York Times: Has a U.S. College Given Russia Too Friendly a Platform?

Opinion: Hosting a Concert of Putin-supporting Musicians In College in Boston is “Undignified”, Alumni Says

Boston Globe: Pro-Putin Musicians To Face Protest At Boston Concert

Boston Globe: Russian Musicians’ Support For Putin Not Paying Well

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: U.S. Protesters Target Russian Classical Music Stars Over Ukraine Conflict

International War Crimes Supporter at Keystone Korner on February 6, 2020.

To: Todd Barkan, Manager, Keystone Korner


Dear Mr. Barkan,

We are writing to you to express our deep disappointment that Keystone Korner has chosen to offer a platform to Igor Butman, a prominent and vocal supporter of Russia’s criminal regime as a whole and of Russian President Putin personally. It is more than unfortunate that at the time when the United States is providing military aid to Ukraine for the express purpose of enabling it to effectively resist Russian military aggression, and when prominent musical venues such as the RegattaBar in Cambridge and Blue Llama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor are cancelling performances by Mr. Butman, Keystone Korner is jeopardizing its reputation in the community by affirmatively choosing to host this emissary of Russian aggression.

1F8998F3-3290-4AF7-B568-4C61BF8ABC4D

In March 2014, Mr. Butman was among the 511 Russian cultural figures who signed a letter in support of the policies of the Russian President Putin on Ukraine and Crimea—policies of occupation and annexation that are illegal under international law and are specifically condemned by the United States. The letter is available at the website of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. An English translation is available here: Mr. Butman’s signature is number 63.)

These policies, still unequivocally supported by Mr. Butman, have since resulted in thousands dead Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, hundreds of thousands injured, and millions displaced. These are the same policies that led directly to the murder of 298 passengers of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 by a Russian BUK missile in July of 2014. Despite international condemnation and mounting human and infrastructure costs, both to Ukraine and to Russia, in the five and a half years since Mr. Butman signed the letter, he has not taken any steps to repudiate the policy or to withdraw his signatures.

 

DEE3D039-6B56-4F57-B753-8566C6EEC1B4

To the contrary, Igor Butman continues to be a proud and devoted supporter of Vladimir Putin and his policies and continues to take actions to support and legitimize Russian aggression in Ukraine. For example, despite being personally warned by the U.S. State Department that as a US citizen he should not attend a jazz festival in Russian-occupied Crimea (as that would be in violation of the US and EU sanctions), Mr. Butman went to Crimea as a self-proclaimed “messenger of peace,” hypocritically claiming that jazz is above politics.

Mr. Butman also participates in more informal but no less significant events where he leverages his artistic reputation to support Russia’s authoritarian leader. For example, he regularly participates in staged hockey games with Mr. Putin, former Russian national team players, and other celebrities. These spectacles are produced for one purpose only— to strengthen Mr. Putin’s domestic popularity.

61D7116F-F8F3-4842-A120-9FFB735DB3CA

Similar to many other cultural figures loyal to Mr. Putin, Mr. Butman seeks to have it both ways — he wants to use his artistic reputation to support the bloody regime for Russian domestic consumption, while presenting himself to his international audiences as an emissary of peace through culture. We call upon you to not enable this sick game by lending Mr. Butman your stage.

We would also like to highlight Mr. Butman’s cynical view of his US citizenship. In 2015, as reported by RIA News, Mr. Butman stated that he applied for American citizenship for the convenience that it offered him in traveling the world without the need for visas. This was in response to the Alexei Navalny, a prominent opposition leader in Russia, who questioned Mr. Butman’s commitment to the US by pointing out that the citizenship oath taken by Mr. Butman upon his naturalization contains a promise to take up arms to defend the homeland if necessary. Mr. Navalny rightfully noted that it was doubtful that a member of the Supreme Council of Mr. Putin’s party has any intention to defend the US in any way.

Mr. Butman’s attitude is offensive to us as naturalized American citizens who cherish the rights and obligations of our citizenship. As people who also took that very same oath, we would further note that the oath begins with an unequivocal renunciation of  “all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which [the person taking the oath had] theretofore been a subject or citizen…” A seat on the Supreme Council of United Russia does not seem to be in keeping with this oath. It is noteworthy that United Russia is known internationally not only for being Mr. Putin’s party, but also for its endorsement of Russia’s anti-gay law, the law prohibiting international adoption of Russian children, the law decriminalizing domestic abuse, and other laws contrary to International norms for human rights.

The Keystone  is a well-known and respected venue in Baltimore. We find it profoundly incongruent that an on-the-record supporter of international war crimes is invited to play music that for close to a century has been a symbol of freedom of expression and respectfully call on you to reconsider allowing Mr. Butman to perform at your venue.

Sincerely,

Arts Against Aggression

 

09C25006-7924-4692-AE20-D802C02FD246.jpeg

 

About Igor Butman and Arts Against Aggression:

Wiki: Igor Butman

The New York Times: Has a U.S. College Given Russia Too Friendly a Platform?

Opinion: Hosting a Concert of Putin-supporting Musicians In College in Boston is “Undignified”, Alumni Says

Boston Globe: Pro-Putin Musicians To Face Protest At Boston Concert

Boston Globe: Russian Musicians’ Support For Putin Not Paying Well

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: U.S. Protesters Target Russian Classical Music Stars Over Ukraine Conflict

Arts Against Aggression to protest Putin’s Booster at Center Makor (Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline) on February 12, 2020

Vladimir Foygelman, Jewish Educational & Cultural Center Makor President and CEO

Dear Mr. Foygelman:

We are writing to you to express our deep disappointment that Center Makor has chosen to offer a platform to Igor Butman, a prominent and vocal supporter of Russia’s criminal regime as a whole and of Russian President Putin personally. It is more than unfortunate that at the time when the United States is providing military aid to Ukraine for the express purpose of enabling it to effectively resist Russian military aggression, and when prominent musical venues such as the RegattaBar in Cambridge and Blue Llama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor are cancelling performances by Mr. Butman, Center Makor is jeopardizing its reputation in the community by affirmatively choosing to host this emissary of Russian aggression.

1F8998F3-3290-4AF7-B568-4C61BF8ABC4D

In March 2014, Mr. Butman was among the 511 Russian cultural figures who signed a letter in support of the policies of the Russian President Putin on Ukraine and Crimea—policies of occupation and annexation that are illegal under international law and are specifically condemned by the United States. The letter is available at the website of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. An English translation is available here: Mr. Butman’s signature is number 63.)

These policies, still unequivocally supported by Mr. Butman, have since resulted in thousands dead Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, hundreds of thousands injured, and millions displaced. These are the same policies that led directly to the murder of 298 passengers of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 by a Russian BUK missile in July of 2014. Despite international condemnation and mounting human and infrastructure costs, both to Ukraine and to Russia, in the five and a half years since Mr. Butman signed the letter, he has not taken any steps to repudiate the policy or to withdraw his signatures.

 

DEE3D039-6B56-4F57-B753-8566C6EEC1B4

To the contrary, Igor Butman continues to be a proud and devoted supporter of Vladimir Putin and his policies and continues to take actions to support and legitimize Russian aggression in Ukraine. For example, despite being personally warned by the U.S. State Department that as a US citizen he should not attend a jazz festival in Russian-occupied Crimea (as that would be in violation of the US and EU sanctions), Mr. Butman went to Crimea as a self-proclaimed “messenger of peace,” hypocritically claiming that jazz is above politics.

Mr. Butman also participates in more informal but no less significant events where he leverages his artistic reputation to support Russia’s authoritarian leader. For example, he regularly participates in staged hockey games with Mr. Putin, former Russian national team players, and other celebrities. These spectacles are produced for one purpose only— to strengthen Mr. Putin’s domestic popularity.

61D7116F-F8F3-4842-A120-9FFB735DB3CA

Similar to many other cultural figures loyal to Mr. Putin, Mr. Butman seeks to have it both ways — he wants to use his artistic reputation to support the bloody regime for Russian domestic consumption, while presenting himself to his international audiences as an emissary of peace through culture. We call upon you to not enable this sick game by lending Mr. Butman your stage.

We would also like to highlight Mr. Butman’s cynical view of his US citizenship. In 2015, as reported by RIA News, Mr. Butman stated that he applied for American citizenship for the convenience that it offered him in traveling the world without the need for visas. This was in response to the Alexei Navalny, a prominent opposition leader in Russia, who questioned Mr. Butman’s commitment to the US by pointing out that the citizenship oath taken by Mr. Butman upon his naturalization contains a promise to take up arms to defend the homeland if necessary. Mr. Navalny rightfully noted that it was doubtful that a member of the Supreme Council of Mr. Putin’s party has any intention to defend the US in any way.

Mr. Butman’s attitude is offensive to us as naturalized American citizens who cherish the rights and obligations of our citizenship. As people who also took that very same oath, we would further note that the oath begins with an unequivocal renunciation of  “all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which [the person taking the oath had] theretofore been a subject or citizen…” A seat on the Supreme Council of United Russia does not seem to be in keeping with this oath. It is noteworthy that United Russia is known internationally not only for being Mr. Putin’s party, but also for its endorsement of Russia’s anti-gay law, the law prohibiting international adoption of Russian children, the law decriminalizing domestic abuse, and other laws contrary to International norms for human rights.

We find it profoundly incongruent that an on-the-record supporter of international war crimes is invited to play at the center that claims its mission to be integration of Russian-speaking Jews with the mainstream Jewish community, a community that is overwhelmingly opposed to Russian assault on Western values and institutions. While we regret that your actions leave us no other choice, we are hereby informing you that we intend to stage a creative art-protest against Mr. Butman on the day of his performance at Center Makor on February 12, 2020.

Sincerely,

Arts Against Aggression

 

09C25006-7924-4692-AE20-D802C02FD246.jpeg

 

About Igor Butman and Arts Against Aggression:

Wiki: Igor Butman

The New York Times: Has a U.S. College Given Russia Too Friendly a Platform?

Opinion: Hosting a Concert of Putin-supporting Musicians In College in Boston is “Undignified”, Alumni Says

Boston Globe: Pro-Putin Musicians To Face Protest At Boston Concert

Boston Globe: Russian Musicians’ Support For Putin Not Paying Well

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: U.S. Protesters Target Russian Classical Music Stars Over Ukraine Conflict

International War Crimes Supporter at The Promontory Chicago on February 9, 2020.

To: Jake Austen, Venue Manager, The Promontory Chicago

Dear Mr. Austen:

We are writing to you to express our deep disappointment that the Promontory has chosen to offer a platform to Igor Butman, a prominent and vocal supporter of Russia’s criminal regime as a whole and of Russian President Putin personally. It is more than unfortunate that at the time when the United States is providing military aid to Ukraine for the express purpose of enabling it to effectively resist Russian military aggression, and when prominent musical venues such as the RegattaBar in Cambridge and Blue Llama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor are cancelling performances by Mr. Butman, The Promontory is jeopardizing its reputation in the community by affirmatively choosing to host this emissary of Russian aggression.

1F8998F3-3290-4AF7-B568-4C61BF8ABC4D

In March 2014, Mr. Butman was among the 511 Russian cultural figures who signed a letter in support of the policies of the Russian President Putin on Ukraine and Crimea—policies of occupation and annexation that are illegal under international law and are specifically condemned by the United States. The letter is available at the website of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. An English translation is available here: Mr. Butman’s signature is number 63.)

These policies, still unequivocally supported by Mr. Butman, have since resulted in thousands dead Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, hundreds of thousands injured, and millions displaced. These are the same policies that led directly to the murder of 298 passengers of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 by a Russian BUK missile in July of 2014. Despite international condemnation and mounting human and infrastructure costs, both to Ukraine and to Russia, in the five and a half years since Mr. Butman signed the letter, he has not taken any steps to repudiate the policy or to withdraw his signatures.

 

DEE3D039-6B56-4F57-B753-8566C6EEC1B4

SOCHI, RUSSIA – AUGUST 22, 2018: Volga Group owner Gennady Timchenko (L), jazz musician Igor Butman (C), and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R front) during a meeting with participants in an ice hockey match organised by the Ot Chistovo Serdtsa [Pure in Heart] charity fund in Sochi. Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei NikolskyTASS via Getty Images)

To the contrary, Igor Butman continues to be a proud and devoted supporter of Vladimir Putin and his policies and continues to take actions to support and legitimize Russian aggression in Ukraine. For example, despite being personally warned by the U.S. State Department that as a US citizen he should not attend a jazz festival in Russian-occupied Crimea (as that would be in violation of the US and EU sanctions), Mr. Butman went to Crimea as a self-proclaimed “messenger of peace,” hypocritically claiming that jazz is above politics.

Mr. Butman also participates in more informal but no less significant events where he leverages his artistic reputation to support Russia’s authoritarian leader. For example, he regularly participates in staged hockey games with Mr. Putin, former Russian national team players, and other celebrities. These spectacles are produced for one purpose only— to strengthen Mr. Putin’s domestic popularity.

61D7116F-F8F3-4842-A120-9FFB735DB3CA

Similar to many other cultural figures loyal to Mr. Putin, Mr. Butman seeks to have it both ways — he wants to use his artistic reputation to support the bloody regime for Russian domestic consumption, while presenting himself to his international audiences as an emissary of peace through culture. We call upon you to not enable this sick game by lending Mr. Butman your stage.

We would also like to highlight Mr. Butman’s cynical view of his US citizenship. In 2015, as reported by RIA News, Mr. Butman stated that he applied for American citizenship for the convenience that it offered him in traveling the world without the need for visas. This was in response to the Alexei Navalny, a prominent opposition leader in Russia, who questioned Mr. Butman’s commitment to the US by pointing out that the citizenship oath taken by Mr. Butman upon his naturalization contains a promise to take up arms to defend the homeland if necessary. Mr. Navalny rightfully noted that it was doubtful that a member of the Supreme Council of Mr. Putin’s party has any intention to defend the US in any way.

Mr. Butman’s attitude is offensive to us as naturalized American citizens who cherish the rights and obligations of our citizenship. As people who also took that very same oath, we would further note that the oath begins with an unequivocal renunciation of  “all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which [the person taking the oath had] theretofore been a subject or citizen…” A seat on the Supreme Council of United Russia does not seem to be in keeping with this oath. It is noteworthy that United Russia is known internationally not only for being Mr. Putin’s party, but also for its endorsement of Russia’s anti-gay law, the law prohibiting international adoption of Russian children, the law decriminalizing domestic abuse, and other laws contrary to International norms for human rights.

The Promontory is a well-known and respected venue in Chicago. We find it profoundly incongruent that an on-the-record supporter of international war crimes is invited to play music that for close to a century has been a symbol of freedom of expression and respectfully call on you to reconsider allowing Mr. Butman to perform at your venue.

Sincerely,

Arts Against Aggression

 

09C25006-7924-4692-AE20-D802C02FD246.jpeg

 

About Igor Butman and Arts Against Aggression:

Wiki: Igor Butman

The New York Times: Has a U.S. College Given Russia Too Friendly a Platform?

Opinion: Hosting a Concert of Putin-supporting Musicians In College in Boston is “Undignified”, Alumni Says

Boston Globe: Pro-Putin Musicians To Face Protest At Boston Concert

Boston Globe: Russian Musicians’ Support For Putin Not Paying Well

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: U.S. Protesters Target Russian Classical Music Stars Over Ukraine Conflict

 

International War Crimes Supporter at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center on February 7, 2020.

To: Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez
To: Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson, Miami-Dade County Board of Commisioners
To: Eric Fliss, Managing Director, South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center
Dear Mayor Gimenez, Chairwoman Edmonson and Mr. Fliss,

We are writing to you to express our deep disappointment that South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center has chosen to offer a platform to Igor Butman, a prominent and vocal supporter of Russia’s criminal regime as a whole and of Russian President Putin personally. It is more than unfortunate that at the time when the United States is providing military aid to Ukraine for the express purpose of enabling it to effectively resist Russian military aggression, and when prominent musical venues such as the RegattaBar in Cambridge and Blue Llama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor are cancelling performances by Mr. Butman, South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center is jeopardizing its reputation in the community by affirmatively choosing to host this emissary of Russian aggression.

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In March 2014, Mr. Butman was among the 511 Russian cultural figures who signed a letter in support of the policies of the Russian President Putin on Ukraine and Crimea—policies of occupation and annexation that are illegal under international law and are specifically condemned by the United States. The letter is available at the website of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. An English translation is available here: Mr. Butman’s signature is number 63.)

These policies, still unequivocally supported by Mr. Butman, have since resulted in thousands dead Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, hundreds of thousands injured, and millions displaced. These are the same policies that led directly to the murder of 298 passengers of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 by a Russian BUK missile in July of 2014. Despite international condemnation and mounting human and infrastructure costs, both to Ukraine and to Russia, in the five and a half years since Mr. Butman signed the letter, he has not taken any steps to repudiate the policy or to withdraw his signatures.

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SOCHI, RUSSIA – AUGUST 22, 2018: Volga Group owner Gennady Timchenko (L), jazz musician Igor Butman (C), and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R front) during a meeting with participants in an ice hockey match organised by the Ot Chistovo Serdtsa [Pure in Heart] charity fund in Sochi. Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei NikolskyTASS via Getty Images)

To the contrary, Igor Butman continues to be a proud and devoted supporter of Vladimir Putin and his policies and continues to take actions to support and legitimize Russian aggression in Ukraine. For example, despite being personally warned by the U.S. State Department that as a US citizen he should not attend a jazz festival in Russian-occupied Crimea (as that would be in violation of the US and EU sanctions), Mr. Butman went to Crimea as a self-proclaimed “messenger of peace,” hypocritically claiming that jazz is above politics.

Mr. Butman also participates in more informal but no less significant events where he leverages his artistic reputation to support Russia’s authoritarian leader. For example, he regularly participates in staged hockey games with Mr. Putin, former Russian national team players, and other celebrities. These spectacles are produced for one purpose only— to strengthen Mr. Putin’s domestic popularity.

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Similar to many other cultural figures loyal to Mr. Putin, Mr. Butman seeks to have it both ways — he wants to use his artistic reputation to support the bloody regime for Russian domestic consumption, while presenting himself to his international audiences as an emissary of peace through culture. We call upon you to not enable this sick game by lending Mr. Butman your stage.

We would also like to highlight Mr. Butman’s cynical view of his US citizenship. In 2015, as reported by RIA News, Mr. Butman stated that he applied for American citizenship for the convenience that it offered him in traveling the world without the need for visas. This was in response to the Alexei Navalny, a prominent opposition leader in Russia, who questioned Mr. Butman’s commitment to the US by pointing out that the citizenship oath taken by Mr. Butman upon his naturalization contains a promise to take up arms to defend the homeland if necessary. Mr. Navalny rightfully noted that it was doubtful that a member of the Supreme Council of Mr. Putin’s party has any intention to defend the US in any way.

Mr. Butman’s attitude is offensive to us as naturalized American citizens who cherish the rights and obligations of our citizenship. As people who also took that very same oath, we would further note that the oath begins with an unequivocal renunciation of  “all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which [the person taking the oath had] theretofore been a subject or citizen…” A seat on the Supreme Council of United Russia does not seem to be in keeping with this oath. It is noteworthy that United Russia is known internationally not only for being Mr. Putin’s party, but also for its endorsement of Russia’s anti-gay law, the law prohibiting international adoption of Russian children, the law decriminalizing domestic abuse, and other laws contrary to International norms for human rights.

We find it profoundly incongruent that an on-the-record supporter of international war crimes is invited to play at the Cultural Arts Center that is managed by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, with funding support from the office of the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners. We respectfully ask you to reconsider hosting Igor Butman’s concert at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.

Sincerely,

Arts Against Aggression

 

About Igor Butman and Arts Against Aggression:

Wiki: Igor Butman

The New York Times: Has a U.S. College Given Russia Too Friendly a Platform?

Opinion: Hosting a Concert of Putin-supporting Musicians In College in Boston is “Undignified”, Alumni Says

Boston Globe: Pro-Putin Musicians To Face Protest At Boston Concert

Boston Globe: Russian Musicians’ Support For Putin Not Paying Well

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: U.S. Protesters Target Russian Classical Music Stars Over Ukraine Conflict