Blinken's rock performance in Kyiv strikes sour note with some Ukrainians

Brief performance was part of a two-day visit to Kyiv following Congress's approval of $61 billion in military aid

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken followed up a pledge to support Ukraine in its war against Russia this week by playing a cover of Rockin’ in the Free World at a club in Kyiv.

Dressed in jeans and strapping on an electric guitar, Mr Blinken launched into Neil Young’s hit anthem on Tuesday night, backed by a local jazz-punk band.

“I know this is a really, really difficult time,” Mr Blinken told the crowd of Ukrainians and Americans who had descended on BarmanDictat after being tipped off about the gig.

“Your soldiers, your citizens in the north-east in Kharkiv are suffering tremendously.”

Ukrainian troops “need to know, you need to know, the United States is with you so much, the world is with you”, he added

“And they are fighting, not just for a free Ukraine but for the free world and the free world is with you, too.”

The brief performance, which followed Congress's recent approval of a $61 billion military aid package, was part of a two-day visit to Kyiv, during which Mr Blinken met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

But Mr Blinken’s performance triggered mixed feelings in Kyiv as some Ukrainians, including former Economy Minister Tymofiy Mylovanov, expressed a preference for more weapons over hollow words of support, amid mounting battlefield losses and intensified Russian missile and drone attacks.

“US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's evening in Kyiv can be described in one word: inappropriateness,” Svitlana Matvienko, executive director at the Agency for Legislative Initiatives, said on Facebook.

“With all respect to the allies, with all gratitude for the provided aid … I was offended by this performance as a Ukrainian citizen whose loved ones are giving up everything so that we can resist.”

The mood in Ukraine, where the war with Russia is now well into its third year, has turned increasingly pessimistic.

Russian forces are slowly advancing in the eastern Donbas region, attacking on a new front in the north-east and building up troops in the north. US military aid was delayed for months and Kyiv desperately needs more air defences.

Serhiy Marchenko, a blogger with more than 34,000 followers on Facebook, said the performance did not resonate well.

“We are on a different wavelength. I would like to see more understanding from the allies,” he wrote on the platform.

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Updated: May 15, 2024, 3:02 PM