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‘Putin apologist’ could be asked to step down from Senedd group

21 Jun 2023 5 minute read
Craig Roberts (L) and Mike Church in the event at Samara

Martin Shipton

Members of the Senedd’s Cross-Party Group for Music will be asked whether their vice chair should remain in post after participating in what has been described as a propaganda event in Russia for Vladimir Putin.

Musical conductor Craig Roberts was one of two members of Wales’ cultural community strongly criticised after going to Samara, a city about 600 miles southeast of Moscow, for an “anti-fascist song festival” during which invited artistes performed on a stage emblazoned with the letter Z, the symbol associated with Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Independent journalists who covered the event said Russian Army recruiters were present, trying to sign up volunteers to join the war on Ukraine.

According to the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the festival was sponsored by the Moscow Caledonian Club, a Scottish cultural centre that operates with official sanction, as well as by the Kremlin.

The closing “gala concert” was headlined by a Scots piper called Jimi McRae, and the army recruiters were reportedly targeting men who watched him perform.

Mr McRae also fronted a video “manifesto” citing Putin’s justifications for his invasion of Ukraine, including the claim that the existence of the Russian people was under threat. The two Welsh participants – Mr Roberts and children’s author Mike Church – are also in the video.

“Today fascism is once again raising its head,” according to the statement read by festival participants. “Once again the leaders of another western power talk of the exceptionalism of their nation, of their right to rule the world.”

It continued: “We once again hear of the collapse of Russia, of the cancellation of Russian culture and history, of the destruction of the entire Russian people. And that means that once again the motherland is in danger.”

There was no explicit reference to Ukraine in the manifesto. The western power cited was not named. Russians would have understood that it meant America, however.

Apalling

Mick Antoniw, the Counsel General for Wales and Labour MS for Wales, is the son of an immigrant from Ukraine and has been prominent in organising relief missions for Ukraine as it defends itself against Putin’s merciless aggression. He said: “It is appalling that these people have gone on this freebie and allowed themselves to be used for propaganda purposes by Russia. I don’t know whether they are just extremely naive, but Putin will certainly regard them as useful idiots.”

Mr Roberts’ website describes him as a “conductor, events manager and creative consultant” and states that he is “business development & marketing officer to St Elvan’s, Cynon Valley, musical director of Lewis Merthyr Band, City of Bristol Brass Band and Symphonic Brass Wales; and director of the Estes Park International Tattoo in Colorado, USA”.

He is currently also vice chair of the Cross Party Group for Music at the Senedd, vice chair of international twinning for Rhondda Cynon council, a consultant to the Musikfest der Bundeswehr of Dusseldorf, Germany and a trustee of the famed Grimethorpe Colliery Band.

Responding to our request for a comment, he sent us a statement which said: “For my own part, I have been travelling to Russia and participating in cultural events there for over 15 years. In 2013, I was fortunate to visit Ukraine also.

“The current situation in the Donbass, and the conflict that has been raging in that region for eight years now, is a tragedy. I firmly believe that it is deeply important that channels of communication – particularly cultural – remain open however, particularly at times like this, between all nations, and that greater dialogue and mediation is required to resolve the current crisis

“At some point – hopefully soon – this conflict will end, and bridges between nations will need to be rebuilt. Hopefully at that point culture, and the links retained during these challenging times, will be able to play a role .”

We have now been told that Mr Roberts is due to attend a two-week event in Russia in August called the International Forum Against the Cancellation of Culture. It is due to take place from August 12 to August 27 in Veliky Novgorod, Pskov, Russia.

Abhorrent

Asked whether she thought that in the circumstances Mr Roberts should retain his role with the cross-party Senedd group, its chair, Labour MS Rhianon Passmore said: “Putin is a fascist, and his invasion of Ukraine is abhorrent. All democrats should give our full support to the forces of Ukraine who are opposing this appalling invasion.

“The Senedd’s rules state the Cross-Party Group for Music must elect as office holders a chair and a secretary. Craig Roberts has been a member of the group and has held a nominal, unelected, role as vice chair. Mr Roberts last attended a meeting of the group late last year. Under the Senedd’s rules it is for the group to determine membership. I am sure that the group will want to reflect on this responsibility.

“I would urge Mr Roberts to desist from giving Vladimir Putin’s regime any succour and to publicly denounce the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine. I will raise with the group’s membership, at the next meeting, my concerns about Mr Roberts’ continuing suitability to be a member of the group.”

We invited Mr Roberts to respond to Ms Passmore’s comments, but he did not do so.


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Karen Lewis
Karen Lewis
9 months ago

I never understand the asinine behaviour of some. Russia is not under threat, nor does anyone want to rule them. Russian soldiers have once again committed appalling atrocities under the orders of Putin. Democracy is badly flawed but nothing as bad as the one all powerful, idiotic, megalomaniac at the top of any country

Erisian
Erisian
9 months ago

A Foie gras producer should not be believed when they sponsor Veganuary

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
9 months ago

Anything to do with supporting Putin his regime or cronies should be condemned. However, its sad that the Russian people themselves are too often cursed, due to this war, too, even though they have little to say in the matter. I’ve been to Samara, well before this Ukrainian crisis, and the people there were warm, kind and friendly. We should remember this is Putin’s war and not neccessarily the Russian public’s war.

hdavies15
hdavies15
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve A Duggan

You could have gone on to say “and it’s not our war either, but our ruling elites love buying war materials and setting them off at a safe distance preferably in a proxy conflict as they have not done too well in the last 2 conflicts triggered and exploited by manipulative governments”

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
9 months ago

Have we not learned one iota the lessons from the Iraq and Afghan conflicts? I say no. We are playing very dangerous games. Putin has already deployed nukes in Belarus. We should be mediating not mutilating , and this doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to Russia or Ukraine’s atrocities, as that are occuring on both sides by the way. Too many have died already. And what for? In 1962 we nearly had WW3 when Russia was invited by Cuba to have a presence on the island and to station some of its weaponry after America tried to invade because… Read more »

adopted cardi
adopted cardi
9 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

very well said – it needs saying.

Rob
Rob
9 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Lets not forget Moldova. The Russians have occupied Transnistria since the early 90s. Chechnya is different because unlike Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova it is an internal part of Russia’s sovereignty, therefore would far more dangerous if intervention occurred and would be a violation of the UN Charter. That doesn’t mean to say I’m not sympathetic to Chechyna, however military intervention on humanitarian grounds sets a dangerous precedent and always leads to further escalation as we are seeing now in Ukraine. In regards to NATO expansion, countries such as Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia etc joined NATO because they felt threatened by Russia,… Read more »

Ed Jones
Ed Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

“…Russia were promised by NATO they’d not encroach on its border. They lied.” Verbal promises may well have been made (by Baker and Kohl, for instance), but it is not written down in any treaty. By saying NATO broke its promise (as Putin uttered in Munich’07), we risk portraying Russia as a victim, it was not and indeed is still not. Gorbachev, in an interview with Kommersant in 2014, stated that the subject of NATO enlargement never even came up, going on to say ‘Not a single Eastern European country brought up the issue, not even after the Warsaw Pact… Read more »

Dic Sion Dafydd
Dic Sion Dafydd
9 months ago

How ironic that RT was Plaido’s and the SNP’s main propaganda outlet until the invasion of Ukraine. Don’t forget that their are indeed a tiny minority of neo Nazi’s within the Ukranian resistance forces too. NATO also broke numerous promises not to expand its influence further East since the end of the cold war too. No I’m not a Putin apologist either. But if you assess this tragic conflict from a Russian nationalist perspective. One can indeed sense a desire to defend the Russian Empire’s borders from further US or western provocation or intervention. The Ukraine was part of the… Read more »

Rob
Rob
9 months ago

What does woke ideology have to do with it? Russia isn’t the only country where its citizens oppose ‘wokeism.’ This war was supposed to be about ‘denazification.’ Being woke is the polar opposite to being a Nazi. There are far more Nazis in Russia than there are in Ukraine. At least for the Ukrainians they need all the help they can get defending their country. I would rather throw them into the ‘Lions den’ then poorly trained conscripts. Quote: “But if you assess this tragic conflict from a Russian nationalist perspective.” There is a difference between being a nationalist and… Read more »

Last edited 9 months ago by Rob

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