Breaking: Navalny asks EU to ban Valery Gergiev

Breaking: Navalny asks EU to ban Valery Gergiev


norman lebrecht

October 08, 2020

The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has asked the European Union to ban allies of Vladimir Putin from entering their countries.

In a Berlin interview with Bild, Navalny who is recovering from poisioning singled out the conductor Valery Gergiev as a powerful propagandist and apologist for Putins crimes.

‘He is the perfect example,’ said Navalny. ‘Such people must be put under pressure. People like him must be slapped with entry bans and you know what? Ninety-nine percent of Russians would welcome that.’

Gergiev, 67, is chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, as well as the Mariinsky companies in Russia.

This is the first time a prominent politician has called for sanctions to be imposed on him.

The EU will dither over this for a while, waiting to see if Navalny survives his next assassination attempt. But the ice has been broken. Gergiev is complicit in Putin’s war crimes in Ukraine and Syria. Other governments should take note and consider a ban.


  • Anna says:

    I don’t like Putin and most of his Ministers. But Navalny is an empty – headed asshole. If Putin had wanted to poison him, he would have been dead long ago. Navalny is a lying son of a bitch. He is an empty place in politics and culture. He never offered any specific policy. Only protest and criticism. He is an absolutely destructive person. It’s ridiculous to say that he was a real competitor to anyone in Russian political games. If he puts a spoke in the wheels of Russian culture, but most of the Russians will simply curse him.

    • Larry D says:

      You “don’t like” Putin, but you sure as hell downright HATE his critics. As far as Navalny not having specific policies, I think his stand on not poisoning people is a good one, no?

    • Roman says:

      Navalny’s political program with detailed description of his policies is published on his website ( I don’t follow Navalny, I haven’t been to Russia for quite a long time and I’m not interested Russian politics – this link is a result of 1-second search in Google.

      Your justification of Putin looks ridiculous if not criminal. Did Navalny poisoned himself in your opinion? Did Skripals poisoned themselves? Did Germany/UK lied about Novichok? Did Nemtsov and many others killed themselves in your opinion? Of course Putin didn’t need any of these and he is totally innocent! Oh yes.

    • Gustavo says:

      “Interview with BILD” says everything.

  • sam says:

    I agree that Gergiev crossed the line from sympathizer to propagandist, the former is allowed under freedom of expression, the latter is not as an active collaborator, no different than if Gergiev was called the Director of Communications in today’s hip lingo (instead of Head of Propaganda Arts under totalitarian lingo).

    Yes, because Gergiev is in essence the Head of Propaganda Arts, no different from any foreign agent / diplomat employed and deployed by Russia, he ought to be banned.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Many nitwits on this site who give a thumb-down. They should look elsewhere.

    • Anna says:

      Gergiev is a musician! He has nothing to do with politics! And he is a superb musician! To ban him would be the worst crime whatsoever. Only blind people don’t see that

      • Another orchestral musician says:

        And do you think that art and music has nothing to do with politics? LOL.

        • Tamino says:

          Where are all the musicians in the US who protested against the relentless mass murdering of hundreds of thousands, and breaking of international law over the last decades?
          Splinter is visible, but beam in own eye, not so much?
          I‘m sick of the hypocrisy, enough.

      • Norbert says:

        He is a dreadful musician! How on-earth did you get to your assertion?

        His concerts with the LSO were amongst the worst, least rehearsed and unenjoyable. I vivdly recall a season opening concert at The Barbican when he brought in the entire string section a bar early, and it was a car crash. People cringed.

        Audiences in London were not sad to see him go.

        He also looks like an Ossetian potatoe farmer – it’s disgusting.

        • IP says:

          Smells badly, too.

        • Yulia says:

          Norbert – your last sentense sounds terribly offensive. Ossetians are great people no matter what their hard working farmers may look like. Any people on planet Earth deserves respect.
          Norman – I wish you could filter this more carefully. Thanks.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Gergiev is not a musician. He is a poser, a huckster, a clown.
        His under-rehearsed, jet-lagged, atrocious performances are well-known, as is his slovenly, unprofessional demeanor.
        His “music-making” is thick, brown, and unpleasant: just like something else I can think of.
        Another commenter on this thread, Norbert, describes him well: dreadful.

  • Bone says:

    This is not-quite peak 2020, but an impressively stupid advocacy nonetheless: let’s encourage the govt to start banning artists because______. Yes, trust your politicians to do what is right! They know what is best for you!

    • sam says:

      I’m always amused by those that think “artists” should enjoy a special status just because they are “artists”, no matter what they are doing.

      Hitler was a painter, he was the very definition of an “artist”.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        And there are bullshit artists too; remember that!!

      • Bone says:

        Hitler transitioned to outright politician.
        Gergiev still maintains his artistic position IMHO. Should he choose to transition to full time politician, your asinine analogy might be appropriate.
        So be amused in the meantime.

  • Olga says:

    Idiot.and he thinks the Russians will forgive him for that? Do not touch culture, half-dead…no one respects you in Russia he thinking of entering Russia on German handouts? we had such people – and they was thrown from the bell tower (Lzhedmitry)..Remember the Opera Boris Godunov?…and Crimea is ours..Gergiev signed it correctly. You don’t know the Russian opinion.. when he fought against corruption in Russia is one topic, and when he started yapping at Russia and its best cultural figures from Germany – f//ck him

    • Larry D says:

      Another temperate Russian response. “Throw him from a bell tower just like in the good old days! Crimea is OURS! Ukraine is OURS! Bring back the Evil Empire!”

      • Eric says:

        What else do you expect from Putin’s troll farm?

      • John Borstlap says:

        Indeed – the result of state-induced brainwashing & defective education.

      • Hayne says:

        Umm…Crimea has been a part of Russia since 1783. Believe me, Russia does NOT want to deal with Ukraine at all. Eastern Ukraine are mostly Russian (thanks a lot Stalin) who desperately wants Russian protection from corrupt right wing Ukraine armies (thanks a lot Obama).
        Don’t forget that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia was PROMISED by the US that NATO would not encroach into former Soviet block countries (thanks a lot neocons).
        As for Skripal, what an embarrassment for the Brits eh? Before you start, stating some facts does not make me a Putin apologist. Far from it. But go ahead…

        • Brettermeier says:

          ” stating some facts does not make me a Putin apologist”

          The only problem is: You didn’t state facts but propaganda.

          “Umm…Crimea has been a part of Russia since 1783.”

          Using that logic, Kaliningrad belongs to Germany and Karelia belongs to Finland. So I guess we just go there by tank and have a “referendum”? (That’s where you tout Russian strength yaddayaddayadda.)

          “Russia was PROMISED by the US that NATO would not encroach into former Soviet block countries (thanks a lot neocons).”

          Okay. Sovereign countries may only choose Russia as a strategic partner because otherwise Russia will be miffed. Got it. I’m sure they joyfully give up their sovereignty. Anything to make Russia happy, am I right? 😀

          • Hayne says:

            Sevastopol, Yalta, Simerfopol were built from nothing by the Russians. It’s mostly Russians now. All I can say about the referendum is there are many accounts of a peaceful vote which contradicts the MSM accounts of it. One has to have the intellectual curiosity and courage to see if there are other views of it.
            “Sovereign countries may only choose the United States as a strategic partner because otherwise the US will be miffed. Got it. I’m sure they joyfully give up their sovereignty. Anything to make the US happy, am I right?” Fixed it for you. Ukraine was leaning toward Russia before CIA engineered the “Orange” revolution. As we see later on, the deep state Democrats (and some Republicians) enriched themselves from this. My main point is western countries should stay out of foreign interventionism because “blowback” is always worse.
            I’m very well aware of the Moscow apartment bombings in 1999 which Putin was connected to cement his support. I am not a Putin supporter. Why is it always either/or with you people?

          • Tamino says:

            Obviously you know nothing about today‘s realities and recent history of Crimea. Like most people who judge from their armchairs from the west. The level of brain washing of a few western generations raised during the cold war regarding all things Russian is worrisome. No rational base for discourse. All fear mongering and irrational nonsense.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          I think the East Germans, Czechs and Poles might disagree with you. Thanks a lot, Stalin.
          They have the body bags to prove it, too.

  • Not a good way… You can be an admirer of Gergiev, see him in concert very frenquently (I did that several times and I will continue if the Covid don’t prevent me) and don’t be a fan of Poutine.

  • Gustavo says:

    Nothing to prevent me from pre-ordering Gergiev’s complete Bruckner cycle.

    And I am not going to burn my complete Furtwängler and Karajan sets nor Gergiev’s LSO and “World Orchestra for Peace” discs just for political reasons.

  • Jk says:

    Asshole, son of a bitch, fuck him, … since when is it ok to use such verbiage on slipped disk? Two members who’s vitriol should
    bar them immediately of any further commentary I should think?

  • Roman says:

    I’m surprised how many likes pro-Putin comments get. It is scary. Did Kremlin propaganda bots overtook even SlippedDisk?

    I’m not saying that I agree with Navalny, since I don’t know what exactly did Gergiev did outside of concert halls, but the widespread and aggressive support for a crazy poisoning-obsessed dictator and blaming the only notable opposition leader who was nearly killed recently is chilling.

    • Karl says:

      Putin is a bad guy, but he did do the US a solid by helping to defeat Hillary – sometimes known as the Hildabeast.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Sorry, I can’t resist this; a weak Biden is likely to win when Hilary couldn’t do the same!!!!

  • Novagerio says:

    A shallow media prostitute wants to globaly ban Russia’s most important international musician and job creator. You couldn’t make this up…

    • Theremin says:

      Slave-owners called themselves job creators (Currentzis also rode the cheap russian wave to propel his own career). Of course you have to separate a person’s art from its politics (cough, cough). Autocracts do this with all the people.

      The Munich Philharmonics remain a deranged orchestra under Gergiev. BSO under Petrenko and BRSO under Jansons played circles around MP’s dismal performances. Maybe Bavaria doesn’t need so many orchestras after Covid. Gergiev would only fly home the same day.

      He has no money on the West. Is his no-show in Vienna already forgotten? Or his rehearsals by contract and once-in-a-lifetime performance in Bayreuth? He cashes in what he’s offered and with a new Concorde he could cash in more. The art of Gergiev is the art of money-making. And Putin smiles, looking at the usual Western foot-shooting.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        If artists were punished for ‘no shows’ there’d be precious few of them Left. Just saying.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Agree 1000%.

      • Novagerio says:

        Theremin: I don’t doubt that he’s a “slave-owner”! He has some 3.000 people under his control (the two Marinskys), and the entire personnel depends on him with their lives since now three decades!

        According to Forbes back in 2013, Czar Gergiev cashed in $16.5 Million a Year, while most opera singers in Russia earn the equivalent of 300€ a month – so, yes, “slave-owner” is propably a good word!
        But he’s still the most prominent musical figure in Russia, and don’t forget how the West were kissing his ass, from the Met (who created a special “title” for him – wich resulted in several peptic ulcers within the orchestra), the Garden, Alberto Vilar (before he went to jail for massive fraud), Salzburg, Baden-Baden, La Scala, you name it (!!)

      • Tamino says:

        The jet set madness and the political issues should be dealt with separately though. There are many more concudctors guilty of doing the jet set nonsense, delivering mediocre performances all over the globe, driven by their agents and their own greed. Blame stupid blasé concert goers, who want celebrities, not music. Another area, where the free market does not solve it to the better.

  • Melba Toast says:

    I couldn’t agree more!!! This non conductor should be forcibly retired. He is a fraud. And I should know—I played many dozens of performances with him. He couldn’t even keep Pique Dame together!!

  • No name says:

    Not all Russians support current Putin politics. And of course Russians dont support Gergieve ban. We dont care these dirty politics game, we want to enjoy music and Gergiev concerts.

  • Alex Klein says:

    In some places it is still difficult to separate religion from politics. A step above would be to ensure that politics (and religion, for that matter) not meddle with the arts either. It is inevitable that all of us musicians need to mingle with donors, be they politicians or CEOs, in order to secure our survival and that of our venues. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we agree with what the politicians say/do or how the CEOs pay their factory workers, nor how dangerous their products are for the environment. We need the money and our work does not support their actions, ever. Gergiev and Putin are longtime friends, I say leave them be and do not allow Navalny to weaponize the arts. He may have a political point to make, granted, but not an artistic one.

    • mary says:

      “do not allow Navalny to weaponize the arts”

      Chavez weaponized the arts
      Maduro weaponized the arts
      Bolsonaro weaponized the arts
      Goebbel weaponized the arts
      Putin weaponized the arts

      If you can’t tell the difference, that’s sad

    • Joshua says:

      Not just weaponize, but monetize. There’s a long history of the Soviet government garnishing monies earned overseas from its artists — does anyone really think this practice isn’t continuing through Gergiev, the long-time friend of Putin, the busiest (and unfortunately these days, sloppiest) conductor working? If you don’t see a laundering of foreign monies through Gergiev to Putin’s regime (while the entire eastern half of his country crumbles) you’re absolutely blind. The same issues involve Sergei Roldugin…

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Interesting comments. But I wonder what in the world Putin and Gergiev have in common; one an uneducated street thug and ex KGB operative and the other a classical music conductor, presumably with an education.

  • SVM says:

    A lot of Lebrecht’s claims about Putin are unproven allegations. And Russia’s involvement in Syria is legitimate under international law, unlike the West’s, which is illegal.

    As for calling Navalny a “prominent politician”, I am under the impression that he has less popular support in Russia than Caroline Lucas has in the UK (although I do not have any data to hand). I have never heard Caroline Lucas called a “prominent politician”, despite being the leader of a party that would have a lot more than one MP in the House of Commons if not for the absurd “first past the post” system (which is outrageously biased in favour of Labour, Conservatives, and the SNP).

    And even if the allegations against Putin were true (which would be convenient for the UK/USA/NATO political establishment, who are always looking to “pass the buck” and blame someone else for the failings of our society in the West), that would not be adequate cause to ban Russian musicians (Tony Blair’s *proven* war crimes have not resulted in British musicians being banned/boycotted, have they?).

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      A singular exercise in casuistry.

    • Another orchestral musician says:

      “Russia’s involvement in Syria is legitimate under international law”. Yeah, but probably attacking hospitals and schools ( like they did in Aleppo) is definitely not the way. Just saying.

  • Purfling says:

    Banning musicians is another form of cancel culture, which is becoming popular in the United States. It is sort of like setting your house on fire to drive out the rats; Draconian in the short term and disastrous in the long run.

  • Hubert Price says:

    I am, and so many other musicians who don’t suck on Putin’s/Gergiev’s nipple, will be FOR banning this mafioso

  • Dana says:

    He sustained also Crimeea invasion. Nobody, exceptfew activists, did nothing. Putin is paying extremly well these ambassadors, notonly Gergiev but also Polunin, ballet dancer or Vasiliev, sportsmen etc. The only Russian musician who is open against Putin’s policy, is the conductor Jurowski.

    • IP says:

      Now we are talking. I don’t know about Jurowski’s political views, but what he does is conducting. No doubt at all whether it could be a mild form of chorea aka St Vitus’ dance instead.

  • Alexander T says:

    Napoleon, Mussolini, Stalin, Lenin, Putin etc….
    What is it with short men and politics

  • Nicholas says:

    The Russophobia on this blog is unbecoming and please, Mr. Lebrecht, don’t trivialize the term “war crimes” by connecting Gergiev’s support of Putin. By extension you are implicitly smearing millions of Russians inside of Russia and abroad. We need to restore a realist and sane foreign policy vis-a-vis Russia as espoused by the late scholar Stephen F. Cohen (R.I.P.). Other than that, Mr. Lebrecht, I find your opinions on music insightful and worth reading.

    • Brettermeier says:

      “The Russophobia on this blog is unbecoming”

      All that pro-Putin whining – pathetic. Germany isn’t showered with compliments on a daily basis here either. Do you see us Germans running around screaming “Germanophobia”? No, you don’t. We’re not mortally offended when criticized. We don’t need to be pampered like five-year-olds – unlike you guys.

      But I concur, we need “a realist and sane foreign policy vis-a-vis Russia”. And that’s sanctions. (If you don’t see it my way it’s because of your germanophobe attitude. 😀 Mimimimimi…)

      Privet iz Germanii.

  • Chloe says:

    Gergiev should be banned, not only because what he has played in the ugly politics but also his unrespectful approach to musicians and sexism comments.

    I will never forget that during an orchestra tour he said to our agency that he wanted a male tour manager because “women are made to be housewives and should not work with him”.

    Really disgusting.

  • Tamino says:

    Why do so many hateful comments here remind me of „Der Stürmer“, the Nazi outlet doing propaganda against the „eternal filthy Jews“. Only that it‘s now Russians, or Ossetians.
    Shame on you all who have lost their humanity.

  • Russell says:

    I agree with SVM and Nicholas. The Russophobia of some of these comments is quite breathtaking in its ignorance. They are mirror projections of their authors’ brain washed minds that place everything bad about their own putrefying democracies on to the Russian government. A little bit more critical reflection on the sorry state of governance within their own countries might help detoxify the atmosphere and create some much needed space for more realistic and friendly relations with the Russian leadership and the people of Russia. It would help if people invested some time and effort in actually reading serious scholars like the late Stephen Cohen, as pointed out in the post by Nicholas.

    As to the alleged poisoning of Navalny, where is the evidence? Are we meant to believe mere assertions like the 45 minute time frame that Saddam Hussein had to launch his non existent weapons of mass destruction. Those making the accusation against the Russian government are not even willing to share their so called evidence of what one must now regard as a fabrication. This is the more so when one searches for motive. The Americans have been straining every possible diplomatic sinew to stop North Stream 2. It is an important project of international cooperation that Russia is keen to participate in for both commercial and diplomatic reasons which the US wants to prevent for the same reasons. This makes for a far more plausible and credible argument that certain Western interests are behind the allegation of poisoning that Navalny is supposed to have been subject to. Strange how a lethal nerve agent afflicted Navalny but no one else in his close entourage. There are also more questions than answers with regard to what happened to the Skripals on the eve of the hugely important international spectacle of the World Cup that Russia was proudly hosting. Again when one searches for a motive, the more plausible and credible answer is some actor looking to blacken Russia’s reputation and disrupt Russia’s hosting of the World Cup.

    On the question of Russian war crimes in Syria, you must be having a laugh. To accuse Russia of war crimes in its support of the legitimate government of Syria in defence of that country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty is perhaps one of the more egregious and false claims against Russian involvement. Without the decisive intervention of Russia, at the invitation of the Syrian government, recognised as such in international law, there would be no Syria. At best some sort of semi feudal, barbaric caliphate would be ruling over its captive civilian population, cleansing it of all religious minorities. Or at worst, the integrity of the Syrian state would be torn apart in a remake of Libya part 2, with warring factions marauding the country and tearing it apart. Herein lies the ultimate war crime. The West has been more concerned with fuelling the fight to illegally overthrow the Assad regime, no matter the cost. Even if it involves supporting El Qaida or its numerous affiliates and off shoots. Through its client states in the region such as Saudi Arabia and Quatar, not to mention the role of Turkey, the US and its senior NATO allies in Britain and France illegally funnelled military support and aid to the Islamist terrorists that initially began the civil war in earnest and then prolonged it. If by war crime those accusing Russia are referring to the Nuremburg Principles that designates a crime against the peace as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”, then we need to take a closer look at our own leaders before accusing others. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones! At the moment the US with the backing of its Western allies illegally occupies part of Syria, the part that has the oil. It is also illegally helping itself to Syrian oil which is classed as a war crime.

    I suggest all those freedom loving warriors for democracy take a good look at their own beloved Western democracy or rather hypocrisy before their clumsy and insulting lunges at the Russian leadership. You coul start with this: