Russian pop icon Alla Pugacheva criticizes Ukraine invasion, asks to be labeled 'foreign agent'

Vladimir Putin, Alla Pugacheva
Vladimir Putin, Alla Pugacheva  

Alla Pugacheva, a hugely and broadly popular pop singer in Russia since the Soviet era, criticized Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Sunday. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been facing increasing internal criticism of the war since Russian forces were pushed out of Kharkiv province in an ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive, and Putin conceded at a recent summit of allies that China and India have "concerns" about his foreign adventure. But Pugacheva seems to have been pushed into dissent by Russia labeling her husband Maxim Galkin a "foreign agent" over his criticism of the war.

The label "foreign agent" applies to organizations and individuals assessed to be involved in political activity funded from abroad, The Associated Press reports. "The term carries a strong pejorative sense and implies additional government scrutiny."

"I request to be added to the ranks of foreign agents of my beloved country," Pugacheva, 73, wrote on Instagram, where she has 3.4 million follower. "I am in solidarity with my husband, an honest, respectable, and genuine person who is a true and incorruptible patriot of Russia, who wishes his Motherland prosperity, peaceful life, freedom of speech, and the end of the death of our guys for illusory goals that are turning our country into a pariah and worsening the lives of our citizens."

"Scores of major Russian cultural figures have already criticized the war," The New York Times reports, but "Pugacheva is uniquely popular among a broad cross-section of Russians" and throughout the former Soviet Union. "Who is the analogous person to Alla Pugacheva in the U.S.?" former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul mused on Twitter. "Dolly Parton? Oprah? This is a big blow to Putin." The Times in 2000 called Pugacheva "the goddess of Russian pop, Moscow's Tina Turner with a hint of Edith Piaf."

Putin awarded Pugacheva an Order for Merit to the Fatherland in 2014. While Galkin, a 46-year-old singer, comedian, and TV presenter, has been outspoken in his criticism of Putin's Russia invasion, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov noted earlier this month that Pugacheva and Putin "know each other and have met more than once." Galkin had made "very bad statements," he added, but Pugacheva had not. The Kremlin did not respond to the Times' request for comment on her new statement.

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