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The Welsh Orchestra Defying the Ukrainian Coup Regime

A Welsh brass band has been touring Crimean venues this month. This is totally unacceptable, according to the Kiev-based government of Ukraine – installed after the 2014 coup. Quite why these ten individuals playing traditional music in theatres around Crimean cities is so distasteful remains a mystery. For our part, it seems an innocent enough exercise, and perhaps a nice way to celebrate a peculiarity of history that ties Wales to that part of the world.

The Ukrainian government felt strongly enough about it to “take steps”.

First, the Ukrainian ambassador to Britain wrote to the organization, requesting they cancel the tour:

They also tweeted about it:

…and wrote to the Foreign Office, who in turn wrote to Symphoninc Brass Wales:

Quite why two different national governments felt the need to pressure a small group of people from travelling to a perfectly safe part of the world, we do not know. Certainly it was nothing to do with risk. And what kind of PR coup does a small orchestra – only 10 pieces – really offer the Russian Federation?

The whole situation reeks of desperation and insecurity really. A sweaty palmed, convulsive need to keep control of a situation that is rapidly slipping out of their grasp.

The small Welsh orchestra went on the tour anyway, and apparently had a great time.

If any of our readers are aware of any similar circumstances – of state pressure being brought against individuals or small groups – please let us know.


  1. Mikhail Simonyan says

    I express the words of support of my colleagues from Welsh who came to the Crimea and spoke to people who are no different from people living in England!
    In general, in the 21st century it is wild when art is made up of fictitious political frameworks! Culture has no boundaries and art is eternal, then that will survive any conflict.
    The goal of musicians is to speak to people in any conditions and carry the good and eternal that is in music.

    Yours most sincerely
    Mikhail Simonyan

  2. Hilariously my comment re racism drew a typically patronising response from a “progressive” which also revealed their support for a Russian imperialism, and really have no idea of how Nick Griffin shares their views. White supremacists with a red flag…

  3. I am used to encountering ethnic hatred from Brits of a supposedly left wing hue (and their Neo Nazi friends such as Griffin) but this thread is a real showcase of xenophobic ignorance.

    • Paul Harvey says

      Surely you mean Brits of a right wing hue, who indeed would count neo-nazis like Nick Griffin as their friend?

      Please don’t take this as patronising, but I think you may have a fundamental misunderstanding about left-wing politics and right-wing politics.

      Left wing politics is predicated exclusively on a class/power based understanding of the world and sees ethnic hatred and xenophobia as a function/effect of capitalism, power and control.

      Right wing politics is slightly more complex as the spectrum takes us from the ‘corporatism’ of Italian fascism to the race based ideology of Nazism (with extreme forms of right wing Nationalism borrowing from both ideologies)

      All the comments in this page are directed towards the fascist, neo-nazi and extreme nationalism of elements in the Kiev regime along with a critical view of its financial and military support by NATO and various western countries.

      The opposition to the current Ukrainian regime (as expressed in the comments on this page) is predicated on its political structure and ideology, not upon a xenophobic analysis regarding the ethnicity of its people.

      I imagine most of the people who have written comments view the attempt by the Ukrainian state to stop a Welsh brass band from playing in Crimea as an outbreak of the fascist mind – a complete over-reaction and see Crimea as part of the Russian Federation (based upon the wishes of the vast majority of its citizens) and as such, completely entitled to invite anyone it chooses into their country (including Welsh brass bands).

      The irony of course is we are discussing a regime that completely tolerates ethnic hatred (such as the treatment of the Romani people), that banned the Russian language in its schools (which would suggest at least a modicum of xenophobia at play) and has rehabilitated the genocidal fascist Stepan Bandera into a moderate nationalist and has passed a law that makes it illegal to show a ‘disrespectful attitude’ towards the WWII Ukrainian Fascist groups the OUN and UPA – two groups that practiced ‘ethnic hatred’ on a vast scale.

      The fact that you see ethnic hatred and xenophobia in a comments section written by people like myself who have spent a lifetime opposing fascism, racism and the politics of extreme nationalism, may say more about your own ontology than mine or others who have written to condemn the attempts by the Ukrainian regime to suppress the sound of brass.

  4. Why Kiev should welcome a visit from Welsh Brass Band. By Rostislav Ishchenko in today’s Saker:

    “Once upon a time US Presidents came to visit Kiev. At the dawn of Poroshenko’s reign the vice-president regularly came. Then the Secretary of State occasionally appeared. And now its the turn of the .. second echelon figure of the U$ administration – John Bolton, national security adviser. Moreover, since .. such guests became a rarity, Ukrainian politicians, while longingly waiting for any important guest from Washington….”

  5. Paul Harvey says

    Perhaps when they finally get the independence they deserve from the fascist regime in Kiev, the region could be renamed ‘Donbrass’ – as the mere mention of a copper coloured musical instrument seems to get these vile neo-nazis in a frenzy!

  6. o.j. frowein says

    I have warm memories of this beautiful peninsula Crimea with a long culture & friendly people. Not surprised that this Welsh Brass Band went to Crimea as part of Russia they appreciate culture & civilization in contrast to the Nazi regime of barbarians in Kiev whose only interest is murdering innocent people in Odessa & Donbass.

  7. ourblue says

    Just a thought. Why, when objecting, and wishing to prevent the Welsh brass band touring Crimea, did no correspondence appear to take place between Ukraine and the Welsh Government? I lived in Wales for 30yrs and state for a fact that should you be so ignorant or stupid to suggest a Welshman is British first and Welsh second you are going to have at best a few lose teeth. Why should respect be given when non is shown?

    • GrigoryZinoviev says

      I don’t think the Ukrainian government is too keen on devolved governments: they could have saved themselves a lot of hassle if they’d devolved Donetsk and Lughansk.

      • Richard says

        Of course. Crimea did have an autonomous government : one which was commandeered at gunpoint by Russian stooges at the time of the annexation. Before a hastily organised referendum which presaged the ethnic cleansing of Moslem Tatars
        As for this being a tour of ‘Crimea’ it was actually a tour of Russia with Crimea thrown in at the end. Plainly this band were willing participants in a propaganda coup by the real ‘fascists’ here . It’s disappointing that they have refused to respond so far to any of the dissenting voices that have been raised.

        • Just to clarify, are you alleging the Crimean referendum was rigged and that Moslem Tatars have been murdered by the Russian government?

  8. King Kong says

    The Ukronazies can shout and scream all they want! They remind me of Israel , are they related? Weird Ukros are nazi and any real jew would despise them, I certainly do, but I am only part jew.
    I am going to Crimea next year, who will stop me? Certainly not the doggies in Kiev.

  9. GrigoryZinoviev says

    Does anyone know of anyone who has been punished by the Ukrainian government for entering Crimea without their permission? I’ve been to Crimea a few times recently and wouldn’t mind to vidit Odessa.

  10. Jim Scott says

    So the Ukrainian tools of a violent American planned coup that toppled a legitimately elected government are angry about a Welsh brass band playing music to the people of Crimea who voted to leave the illegitimately created Government of Ukraine.
    The Ukrainian Government and their US overlords should be careful about what they wish for because if the people of Donbass and Crimea decided to stay with Ukraine they probably would vote for a non fascist government and chuck most of the current Government out of the parliament.

  11. Francis Lee says

    I can’t see any future for a unified Ukraine as the whole thing was put together like a lego set. Novorossiya was gifted by Lenin to the Ukraine in 1922. This area was traditionally part of Russia and populated by ethnic Russians with most of the industry in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk and Crimea, Nikolaev and Odessa. Then the western segments on the left bank of the Dnieper, including Lviv, was once a part of both the Austro-Hungarian and Polish empire, was moved west en bloc by Stalin in 1945. This area always was and still is the strong hold of the Banderist neo-Nazis. The country also contains Hungarian and Romanian minorities in Bessarabia and Transcarpathia.

    Only a very loose federalist structure could hold this ethnic and geographical patchwork together, but the Banderist faction had other ideas: one culture, one language, one dominant group. Ethnic cleansing of the Russian speaking and other ethnic minorities.

    Ukraine isn’t collapsing, it has collapsed. It is ruled by imbeciles and yes-men who are simply using their positions to enrich themsleves. One indication is Ukraine’s ratings by the US ratings agencies – Moody’s, Standard and Poor and Fitch. As follows Caa2, B-, B- all below investment grade carrying substantial risk, or in more common parlance, Junk Bonds.

    Yep, ”the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry .” Robbie Burns

  12. rtj1211 says

    Well, I can see that in a world of paranoia, if the historical connection were between Wales and Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine (seeking autonomy and reintegration into Russia), then a Welsh band visiting Crimea (no Welsh connection but already reintegrated into Russia) might seem provocative.

    Far more likely that there was some personal link between a band member and Crimea which led to idea of a summer tour.

    Summer tours are traditional in British musical groups……

  13. A window into the real world.

    A news story with merit which makes a wonderful change from the usual nonsense in the WMSM about Russia.

    I’m sure they enjoyed themselves this is evident from the video. I imagine they had to fund the trip themselves although the FCO can fund these things if they choose – I hope someone can prove me wrong. But judging by the Friday afternoon missive from the FCO I think this most likely have been the case.

    FCO can find £23 million for head chopping affiliates in Syria, nothing for British citizens performing cultural exchange in Russia.

    Meanwhile over on the Graun the distraction of the day is Jamie Oliver and the Great British Jerk Off…Almost a pastiche of the Salisbury gas attack. But don’t despair no one believes them about that news either.

  14. With regard to the Ukraine’s reaction, it is totally petty and smacks of desperation.

    • rtj1211 says

      Plenty of good ones in the North of England too. They were associated with mining communities. Male voice choirs were another tradition in those regions – Huddersfield has a particularly well known one.

      • vexarb says

        ”In Huddersfield, in Huddersfield / There was a girl who would not yield” — to the tune of “The Red Flag”.

  15. Jen says

    The Russian Federation’s response to the events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine that have occurred since February 2014 – restrained and minimal, not reacting to petty and spiteful provocations, offering support only when asked for and where this support is much needed and cannot be provided by any other nation – has certainly paid dividends to the Russians and nothing at all to Kiev or its supporters in the EU, North America or elsewhere in the West.

    Ukraine increasingly finds itself being cast adrift by the EU, NATO and the IMF. All the money that Victoria Nuland and the IMF (through loan tranches) poured into the country has disappeared. Now Germany is preparing to cut off another financial teat to Ukraine through the Nordstream II gas pipeline project with Gazprom. At the same time Ukraine is cutting all public transport links between its territory and Russia, in spite of the fact that it needs trade with Russia more than Russia needs trade with Ukraine.

    At some point in time the Ukrainians must realise they are drowning in a cesspool of their own making but by then they will be beyond saving and the country will have broken up.

    No wonder all they can do against this Welsh brass band, celebrating Wales’ historic link with Donetsk and eastern Ukraine, is bleat and whine.

  16. Baron says

    This from a government that tolerated one of their diplomats to celebrate his birthday on Facebook with a cake in the form of a book with ‘Mein Kampf’ written on it. He was warmly congratulated by his colleagues. The man was dismissed only after a blogger with massive following (Anatolij Sharij,1.5mn) pointed it out.

  17. Hugh O'Neill says

    From the enclosed video link, I noticed that the orchestra director was one Craig Roberts. No relation presumably to Paul Craig Roberts, whose writing is a counter blast to the prevailing propaganda. Culture brings people together, whilst politics divides. Well done the Welsh for sticking it to the Anglo-American Establishment. The spirit of Glendower lives on.

    • And the spirit of internationalism.

      The Brass Band tradition in mining communities across the UK was always linked to the Trade Union movement. Solidarity and support from Russia during the miners strike of 1984-85 has clearly not been forgotten.

  18. kevin morris says

    Sorry to be pedantic but a brass band is not an orchestra, and whilst I support fully the bloodless takeover of the Crimea by Russia, it is hardly surprising that the Ukrainian government is up in arms about this visit. To pretend otherwise is simply disingenuous.

    • D'Esterre says

      Kevin Morris: “…whilst I support fully the bloodless takeover of the Crimea by Russia…”

      That’s not what happened. To be sure, you’d not know this, were you getting your news at the time from the BBC, or the US media.

      The Crimea was traditionally part of Russia; in the early 1950s, it was gifted by Krushchev to the Ukraine. Since independence in 1991, the Crimea had made two previous attempts to decamp from the Ukraine. At the time of the US-backed neo-nazi coup, the Crimea made its third attempt to leave. This time it was successful. The government of Crimea held a referendum; the citizens overwhelmingly voted to return to Russia. The government then petitioned the Russian government for returning. Russia accepted. It is the West that talks about annexation, not Crimeans. Nor – obviously – Russians.

      • Paul X says

        Catherine the Great declared Crimea as Russian in 1783 following success in one of the many Russo-Turkish Wars of the period. It was inhabited by Mongols or Tartars who had been Islamised. Sevastopol, a safe large harbour was chosen as the site for the only Russian port with warm water access the year round and the potential to control the Black Sea coast of Russia as well as achieve entry to the Mediterranean. It was perhaps unsurprisingly, the best jewel in Catherine’s Crown. The British, French and Turks fought to destroy and occupy Sevastopol in the 1850’s. The media representation of the barbaric Russian intent on Workd Domination was uncannily similar to today. The Crimean War was a disaster for both sides. Sevastopol was razed to the ground in a way American Air Force Generals would thoroughly approve of. Russia had been exposed as weak and seemingly incapable of reform. The Allies lost all resolve to hold the territory as it was clearly impossible. Losses had been high and the chaos and incompetence exposed by newspapers. And of course the French and British mistrusted each other almost as much they both did the Turks. They all scuttled off claiming Victory but Russia still ruled Crimea and a bigger and better naval fort was built. The German Army occupied the country in WW2; Hitler had visions of a New German Rivera based on Odessa and Crimea; the area was to be for Germans only. Some of the stiffest resistance the Germans had yet encountered came from the Russian areas of Eastern Ukraine, especially Donetsk. It was also there that the formidable Partisan Movement began; whole Armies were soon operating behind German lines. Opposition from industrialised organised Communists was a different story from what could be offered by farmers and peasants.
        I think it’s widely accepted Nikta K., himself born in Ukraine and a Party Leader there, gifted Crimea to Ukraine at a very drunken birthday celebration. It was never a political statement, more a sentimental gesture; they were after all part of the same Union.
        In recent times (since 1783) Crimea was always more Russian than Ukrainian in terms of language, culture and politics.
        Nobody seriously disputes the Referundum.
        Capture of Sevastopol and its conversion into a NATO port that would take away that precious warm water facility and access to the Black Sea and Meditterean, would have been major feathers in Mrs Clinton’s and Obama’s war bonnets if the Kiev government had tried to seize the territory. It would have been well worth the $5bn cost of the coup.
        No wonder Putin is something of a Russian hero; Catherine smiles benignly on him.

        • Paul X says

          An interesting addendum; Britain didn’t give up on retaining its anti Russian expansion. Palmerston especially saw it as key to British secipurity in India which they long suspected might face Russian interference. The weak point for Russia were the wars they were conducting in the Southern Muslim areas. Palmerston upped the provision of arms and money to Jihadi groups. In 1858 a British ship was captured in the Eastern Black Sea by the Russian navy. It was stuffed full of arms for the rebels. The funding of Jihadis had started in earnest in the 1830’s. Palmerston was eventually persuaded that Jihadi support often backfired. The Church of England pointed out that the groups being funded had only one clear interest – killing Christians wherever they found them, Russian or not.
          The .’West’ still sees the area as Russia’s weaklpoint.
          Hours after Putin announced support for Syria in September 2015 King Salman made threats to raise the Jihadi flag in Southern Russia in punishment.
          A major aim of Putin’s policy in Syria is to contain and destroy the thousands of armed Russian Jihadis now in Idlib so they don’t return. Like the Chinese (whose Jihadis occupy their ‘own’ town in Idlib) both see Western and Saudi backing for the Jihadis as direct threats.
          History sometimes creeps along very slowly! And sometimes very little really changes.

          • vexarb says

            “Palmerston was eventually persuaded that Jihadi support often backfired. The Church of England pointed out that the groups being funded had only one clear interest – killing Christians wherever they found them”.

            Palmerston showed more intelligence than Camoron followed by St.Theresa of Westminster. Not hard.

  19. vexarb says

    Beautifully warm and balanced sound — not brassy at all. At last I understand why Bernard Shaw wrote that a certain “brass” instrument was the nearest thing to a human voice. The human voice — that’s what we heard in this unassuming but glorious little concert. A handshake across the divide. A bright little thread in the fabric of humankind.

  20. Gwyn says

    Aah, the video (contained in the link at the end of this piece) of the band playing to an appreciative and enthusiastic audience has really warmed my cockles.

    Diolch yn fawr i bawb!

  21. Pai says

    It reminds me of the time I was in a Detbyshire mining village in the 60’s and the parish council raised money for some members to visit Hanoi when it was being carpet bombed by the Americans. They reported back on their experience.

    • Hope says

      Interesting! Can you give any link to more about this, or recall anything of what was reported?

      • Paul X says

        I’m sorry I can’t help any more. The village was Sutton Scarsdale. I was young and much more interested in a girl who lived there. I met Dennis Skinner in a Miners Welfare. But the whole notion of it shook my thinking; it wasn’t like that in Kent where I came from!

  22. Chris Osh says

    You would think the Ukraine government would be happy the poor beleaguered Crimeans would have a liitle light relief from the jackbooted heels of the occupying army.
    I think Crimea is safer to tour than much of the Ukraine.

    • Antonyl says

      The Ukrainian government claims Donbass as theirs. They should be happy that “their” citizen get some distraction from the civil war through music.

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