• Tue. May 28th, 2024

“Inappropriate”: Guitar Playing Blinken Sparks Criticism In Ukraine


May 15, 2024

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was trying to send a message of defiance and hope when he took to the stage of a Kyiv bar on Tuesday night for a guitar performance of “Rockin’ in the Free World”.

But some Ukrainians have reacted angrily, chastising Washington’s top diplomat for an ill-judged jam session in the capital while Ukrainian troops are fighting in trenches, struggling to hold back a Russian advance amid a shortage of weapons.

“One word is enough to describe US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s evening in Kyiv yesterday: inappropriate,” said Svitlana Matviyenko, head of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives NGO.

Blinken is on a surprise trip to Kyiv weeks after Washington approved a $61 billion package of aid for the country following months of delays in Congress.

In a speech earlier on Tuesday he said the United States would back Ukraine until its security was “guaranteed”.

A guitar player who has launched a musical diplomacy initiative at the State Department, Blinken later joined Ukrainian musicians at a famed Kyiv bar, Barman Dictat, for a rendition of Neil Young’s 1989 “Rockin’ in the Free World”.

“I know this is a really, really difficult time. Your soldiers, your citizens, particularly in the northeast in Kharkiv are suffering tremendously,” he said on stage, holding a red electric guitar.

“But they need to know, you need to know, the Untied States is with you… They’re fighting not just for a free Ukraine but for the free world,” he added.

Ukrainian lawmaker Bogdan Yaremenko, a former diplomat and MP from President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party, said the performance was ill-timed, coming after delays to US aid cost Ukraine lives and territory.

“The message is not hard to understand, but it’s not getting through,” he said in a Facebook post.

Images of Blinken’s performance sparked an angry backlash on social media.

“With all due respect, it’s a mistake. The message is wrong,” said Valeriy Chaly, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States from 2015 to 2019.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)


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