Foreign Ministry to vet songs of Russian Army choir

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The Foreign Ministry has asked the responsible institutions for information about the Alexander Ensemble, an official army choir of the Russian Armed Forces, reported LTV7's Segodnya Vecherom. As of now the concert is set to take place on December 8.

"Art has content as well. If the dance and song contains praise and propaganda of the annexation of Crimea, we don't accept such an approach and the organizers have to realize that," Raimonds Jansons, press secretary for the foreign ministry, told LTV7.

Earlier representatives of the Latvian Foreign Ministry said that they don't have any information about the concert and stressed that the organizer is responsible for any event.

A few days ago the municipality of the Lithuanian city of Visaginas cancelled the concert by the Alexander Ensemble. "I called the organizers and said that they shouldn't perform concerts like that here. Look — they'll arrive wearing their military clothing, all of their attributes. [..]" Danute Morkunene, head of the Visaginas Culture Center, told LTV7 earlier.

Today the Lithuanian Culture Minister Sarunas Birutis expressed support for the municipality's decision: "There are obvious signs showing that the concert would be one of the well paid instruments for Moscow to divide Lithuanian society," the minister said.

According to the minister, Visaginas was chosen not by coincidence but because it is meant to create, in Lithuania's regions - especially in those localities with large ethnic minorities, cultural and information background adverse to Lithuania and favorable to Russia.

He urged other municipalities to follow the example of Visaginas Culture Center and not to give in to provocations.

"The goal of our choir is to spread Russian culture, not someone's ideas, not supporting some politician," said Valentina Maksimov, press secretary of the choir. 

"I know that wherever we'd go, people would buy tickets. There's always an audience that is waiting, that loves our art," she said.

The Alexander Ensemble performs a song "The Polite People", composed last year, which proclaims that "the polite people will preserve the glory and the honor of the motherland". The song is said to be paying homage to Russian soldiers who emerged in Crimea before its annexation last year.

The Academic ensemble of song and dance, named Alexander Ensemble, is an official army choir of the Russian Armed Forces that has planned a concert tour to dozens of European cities, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Victory Day. Capitals of Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Serbia, Romania, and Moldova are to be toured.

In Latvia the ensemble is planning to perform at the Moscow house for a veteran-only audience, so the concert is invite-only and is not advertised.

Editor's note: An earlier version of the article contained gross factual and typographical errors (like confusing the Interior and Foreign ministries) that have made the editor question his Russian proficiency and mental readiness for the task at hand.

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