Video footage shows London Symphony Orchestra’s chief targeted by pro-Ukranians and gay rights activists.
Valery Gergiev has been heckled by protestors at a LSO concert in London’s Trafalgar Square. The controversial conductor, who's due to lead the London Symphony Orchestra on their forthcoming tour to Australia in November, was booed as he walked onto the stage to lead the free concert on Sunday evening.
A group of 30 pro-Ukranian demonstrators were joined by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell to protest Gergiev’s evident support for President Vladimir Putin’s policies in Ukraine as well as the controversial Russian laws against the promotion of homosexuality. A large banner reading “Gergiev Supports War in Ukraine” was unfurled followed by repeated calls of “Gergiev supports Putin. Freedom for Ukraine,” and “Shame on you,” all clearly aimed at the conductor.
The joint protest was organised by the pro-Ukrainian London EuroMaidan campaign group and the Peter Tatchell Foundation and lasted for up to four minutes before the demonstrators were physically removed by security staff.
In a subsequent statement, veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell, who organised an anti-Gergiev protest outside the Barbican last November, said: “It was a brief, peaceful, symbolic protest. We wanted to send a message to Gergiev and the Putin government that what Russia in doing in the Ukraine is unacceptable.”
A spokesperson for the Ukranian group London EuroMaidan, named Chrystyna, added: “We were taking a stand against Gergiev’s collusion with the Putin regime’s aggression in Ukraine. He chose to take an odious political stand. We were exercising our democratic right to criticise him. Gergiev’s pro-Putin position is an insult to the people of Ukraine.”
Pointing out the conductor’s track record on political and human rights matters Tatchell said: “In March 2014, Valery Gergiev signed an open letter, declaring his support for President Putin’s stance on Ukraine; implicitly endorsing Russia’s aggression and its military annexation of Crimea. Gergiev endorsed Putin’s 2012 election campaign, releasing a video explaining why he was voting for Putin. He continues to support the Russian leader, despite Putin’s intervention in Ukraine and anti-gay legislation. Gergiev is a great conductor but he allies himself with the expansionist, homophobic Moscow regime. He doesn’t respect Ukraine’s national sovereignty or the human rights of gay Russians. He is not fit to conduct the LSO”.
The protest is one in a long and increasing series of such events that have dogged Gergiev over the last year including high profile demonstrations at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and similar actions by the lobby group Gays Without Frontiers in San Francisco. It is yet to be seen how the gay and Ukranian communities in Sydney and Melbourne will welcome the LSO tour.