Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany on Sunday boycotted a solidarity concert hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, protesting that the soloists featured on the programme were all Russians.
The concert, performed by the renowned Berlin Philharmonic, was broadcast nationally, with compositions by Polish, Russian and Ukrainian composers played by Belarusian, German, Russian and Ukrainian musicians.
But Andrij Melnyk, Kyiv’s outspoken envoy, pointed out that the soloists — pianist Evgeny Kissin and baritone Rodion Pogossov were both Russians.
“In the middle of a war against civilians! An affront. Sorry I’m staying away,” wrote Melnyk on Twitter.
The president’s spokeswoman Cerstin Gammelin voiced regret over the ambassador’s decision.
She pointed out that central to the programme was renowned Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov, 84, who had sought refuge in Berlin.
Not only were his works played at the opening and end of the concert, he himself performed the pieces “which he composed during the terrible flight”, she wrote on Twitter.
But the Ukrainian ambassador would not be moved.
“My god, why is it so hard for the president to see that as long as Russian bombs are falling on cities and thousands of civilians are murdered day and night, us Ukrainians have no desire for ‘great Russian culture’,” he retorted.
Melnyk has minced no words in rallying Germany to the side of his country.
Over the last weeks, he has been ubiquitous on political talk shows, also making his case in lengthy interviews to Germany’s biggest media outlets.
In his latest interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published Sunday, Melnyk painted an unflattering picture of his conversations with some German ministers over Russia’s war.
Finance Minister Christian Lindner, he revealed, had said it was pointless to send Ukraine weapons or keep Russian banks out of SWIFT, as he assessed that Kyiv “only has a few hours” left before Russia took charge.
“It was the worst conversation in my life,” Melnyk told the newspaper, which billed him “the most unusual ambassador of all time”.