The news portal tv3.lt first started reporting about the controversial ballet dancer Sergey Polunin and his plans to perform in Lithuania in October last year. On March 23, the Minister of Culture Simonas Kairys confirmed on Žinių Radio’s “Pozicija” programme that Polunin and other pro-Kremlin artists had asked for permits to enter Lithuania, but had been refused entry.
The ministry will no longer issue permits
Minister Kairys said that pro-Kremlin artists have no place in our country, especially in the face of war.
“Although we make a distinction between Putin’s regime and the people in Russia, I think it is morally wrong for this country, which has started a war, to have some artists or individuals rushing to Lithuania to perform, dance, sing. In my opinion, this is absolute nonsense. It should not be like this in principle,” said Kairys.
According to him, various performers from Russia and Belarus have applied to come to Lithuania. However, it has been decided not to grant these requests in order to prevent soft power from the Kremlin or Minsk.
“Certain requests are valid for those who would like to come to Lithuania. However, we have already announced that we will definitely not issue such permits”, the Minister stressed.
Closing the door to ballet dancer Polunin with Putin tattoo
S. Kairys revealed that pop culture representatives mainly want to come to Lithuania, many of whom do not hide their sympathies for the Kremlin.
“If I were to see some special cultural figures who want to be here from those requests, it would be one situation. What do I see? The vast majority are part of pop culture. However, there are others, like a famous ballet dancer who has even tattooed Putin’s image, who is himself an active advocate, a supporter of Putin’s policies. These are the kind of people who have no place on the Lithuanian stage,” he told Žinių radios.
The figure is the rector of the Choreography Academy in Sevastopol, Crimea. Dancer Polunin has never hidden his support for Putin and has his image tattooed on his chest.
Humanitarian corridors for those in real danger
When asked whether Lithuania should give refuge to cultural representatives fleeing the Russian or Belarusian dictatorships, the Minister clearly answered. However, he stressed that the humanitarian corridor to Lithuania is only open to those cultural representatives who are genuinely persecuted by the regime or whose lives are in danger.
And the Ministry of Culture receives almost no such requests for humanitarian aid. Finally, the Minister discussed the most frequent requests from cultural figures to Lithuania.
“I absolutely do not see any dissidents, any people in danger in these requests. Of course, they should not enter Lithuania in this way, like for a concert or a similar cultural event. <…> If we are talking about humanitarian applications, there are almost none either,” Kairys noted.
The politician revealed that Russian or Belarusian artists who support dictatorships often have hidden agendas. Their tours in Lithuania could be an opportunity to demonstrate their soft power.
“The problem is that we still have a number of performers or artists who do not shy away from speaking in favour of Putin. There has always been a point of reference when one person or another has performed or done something in Crimea or other territories seized by the Russian regime in Ukraine.
We must look at everything in terms of the tendency for soft power to manifest itself. However, I think that we are a bit late in understanding what this soft power is and that it needs to be fought against”, concluded Kairys.
Minister on art in Russia and Belarus: “Shaken with the regime”
The Minister of Culture did not doubt that Lithuania must unconditionally help Ukrainian cultural figures fleeing the war. According to Mr Kairys, Russian and Belarusian artists have every opportunity to act independently of their countries’ policies. Unfortunately, the reality is different – dictators exploit art for their own purposes.