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Roger Waters concerts canceled in Poland after he criticized Ukraine

Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters performs in Tacoma, Wash., this month. (Amr Alfiky/Reuters)

Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters is embroiled in a controversy in Poland, where his comments that in part blamed the Ukrainian political establishment for Russia’s invasion appear to have led to the cancellation of two of his concerts in Krakow.

Waters, the rock musician best known for his work on Pink Floyd’s 1979 album, “The Wall,” was due to perform in Krakow on April 21 and 22 as part of his solo farewell tour, dubbed “This Is Not a Drill.”

But the venues canceled the performances in the wake of an exchange Waters had with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska in recent weeks — with Waters also facing potential censure from the Krakow City Council after a member submitted a proposal to declare him persona non grata.

Waters, who frequently speaks out on foreign policy issues and is no stranger to controversy because of it, said Saturday in a statement that the cancellation of his Polish shows would “be a sad loss for me.”

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In early September, Waters published an open letter addressed to Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In it, Waters professed incredulity about her assertion to the BBC that more support for Ukraine would bring the war to an end faster.

“I guess that might depend on what you mean by ‘support for Ukraine’? If by ‘support for Ukraine’ you mean the West continuing to supply arms to the Kiev government’s armies, I fear you may be tragically mistaken,” he wrote.

Waters went on to accuse the United States of having a vested interest in extending the war and said “extreme nationalists” in Ukraine were violating “any number of red lines that had been set out quite clearly over a number of years by your neighbors the Russian Federation,” putting Ukraine “on the path to this disastrous war” — a statement many interpreted as victim-blaming.

Zelenska responded on Twitter that Waters should “ask [Russian President Vladimir Putin] for peace. Not Ukraine.”

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Waters regularly espouses incendiary political opinions. Most recently, a video shown during his concerts referred to President Biden as a “war criminal.”

In contrast, Pink Floyd, which Waters left in an acrimonious breakup in the mid-1980s, released a single this year in support of Ukraine, “Hey Hey Rise Up,” its first new music in more than two decades. The song features Ukrainian vocalist Andriy Khlyvnyuk singing a Ukrainian anthem, and proceeds from its sale were earmarked for humanitarian relief.

Poland has been one of the staunchest defenders of Ukraine — with which it shares a border — since the Russian invasion. It has taken in by far the largest number of Ukrainian refugees in Europe and has pledged or donated aid to Kyiv at levels on par with, or in some cases exceeding, commitments made by countries with much stronger economies.

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On Sunday, the entertainment platform Live Nation Polska and the concert venue Tauron Arena Krakow said in a one-line joint statement that they had “canceled Roger Waters’ concert.” They did not give a reason, and some Polish media outlets reported that Waters’s manager had decided to pull out. Waters denied those rumors in his statement Sunday.

The Krakow City Council was expected to vote this week on a proposal to declare Waters persona non grata, the Associated Press reported. The motion was submitted by Councilor Lukasz Wantuch, who, according to Deutsche Welle, previously wrote on social media that it “would be shameful for our city” if Waters were allowed to perform there. “Let him sing in Moscow,” he reportedly added.

In an email to The Washington Post, Wantuch shared a social media statement in which he criticized Waters’s positions on Ukraine as dangerous and invited the musician to “Come with us to Ukraine and see for yourself how wrong you are.”

“If Mr Łukasz Wantuch achieves his aim, and my forthcoming concerts in Krakow are canceled, it will be a sad loss for me,” Waters said in his statement. “I have been looking forward to sharing my message of love with the people of Poland, something I have been doing on many tours over a career that has lasted in excess of fifty years.”

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russia fired at least 85 missiles on at least six major cities in Ukraine on November 15, in one of the most widespread attacks of the war so far. The strikes came just hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking by video link, presented a 10-point peace plan to G-20 leaders at a summit in Indonesia. As in previous Russian missile attacks, critical civilian infrastructure appeared to be primary targets. Parts of several cities that were hit were left without electrical power on Tuesday afternoon.

Russia’s Gamble: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine, and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

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