Welsh musicians spark Ukraine row

Photo by Chris Bair on Unsplash

A group of Welsh musicians is at the centre of an international row after performing in Russian occupied Crimea.

Symphonic Brass Wales is accused of entering Crimea illegally after crossing into the disputed territory from Russia, against UK foreign office advice, during a recent tour.

The Ukrainian embassy in London tweeted their disapproval of the visit on the 10th of August, describing the trip as illegal and threatening to take action. They also informed the UK foreign office of their objections.

Protestors complain the tour, extensively covered by RT and other pro-Russia media outlets, was being used as a PR exercise.

Jonathan Hibberd, an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, a Kiev-based think tank said: “The nature of the visit, exhaustive itinerary around basically the entire peninsula, glowing social media posts with sycophantic comments from strangers using non-standard English paints a suspicious picture of why the tour took place, who paid for it and why?”

The Russian Federation annexed the Crimean peninsula four years ago. That was followed by a military intervention by Russia. Over 10,000 Ukrainians have died in the conflict since 2014.

The UN ruled the 2014 annexation was illegal and it is claimed the band was taking a great personal risk as, if they had run into any difficulties whilst there, British authorities would not have been able to offer consular assistance.

The tour has attracted criticism across social media, with many people asking for a response from the group and complaining of being blocked as a consequence.

Nation.Cymru also asked the band to comment but has had no reply.

A post on the Symphonic Brass Wales website says “Our 10 piece symphonic brass ensemble recently enjoyed a truly incredible 12-day visit to Moscow, Krasnodar, and the Crimean Peninsula. The group received an incredibly warm welcome from our hosts in all three regions and performed in and visited some truly magnificent iconic locations, including the Vorontsov Palace, Livadia Palace, St Vladimir’s Cathedral and more.”

Formed in 1985, their website describes them as “Wales’ leading touring brass ensemble”, Symphonic Brass Wales have performed with the WRU male choir, Only Men Aloud, and regularly appear at the Principality Stadium. The website says they are “musical ambassadors for Wales, Welsh music and the medium of brass.”

In May 2017 Symphonic Brass Wales became the first non-Russian band to play in the Victory Day parade in Moscow.

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