International condemnation swift after conductor Yuriy Kerpatenko shot dead in his home
Russian soldiers have shot dead a Ukrainian musician in his home after he refused to take part in a concert in occupied Kherson, according to the culture ministry in Kyiv.
Conductor Yuriy Kerpatenko declined to take part in a concert “intended by the occupiers to demonstrate the so-called ‘improvement of peaceful life’ in Kherson”, the ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page.
The concert on 1 October was intended to feature the Gileya chamber orchestra, of which Kerpatenko was the principal conductor, but he “categorically refused to cooperate with the occupants”, the statement said.
Kerpatenko, who was also the principal conductor of Kherson’s Mykola Kulish Music and Drama Theatre, had been posting defiant messages on his Facebook page until May.
The Kherson regional prosecutor’s office in Ukraine has launched a formal investigation “on the basis of violations of the laws and customs of war, combined with intentional murder”. Family members outside Kherson lost contact with the conductor in September, it said.
Condemnation by Ukrainian and international artists was swift. “The history of Russia imposing a ‘comply or die’ policy against artists is nothing new. It has a history which spans for hundred of years,” said the Finnish-Ukrainian conductor Dalia Stasevska, who was scheduled to conduct the Last Night of the Proms at London’s Albert Hall last month before it was cancelled because of the Queen’s death.
“I have seen too much silence from Russian colleagues,” she said. “Would this be the time for Russian musicians, especially those living and working abroad, to finally step up and take a stand against the Russian regime’s actions in Ukraine?”
A fortnight ago Stasevska drove a truck of humanitarian supplies into Lviv from her home in Finland, before conducting the INSO-Lviv orchestra in a concert of Ukrainian contemporary music.
“We know the Russian regime is hunting activists, journalists, artists, community leaders, and anyone ready to resist the occupation,” said the prizewinning Ukrainian novelist turned war crimes investigator Victoria Amelina.
“Yet, even knowing the current pattern and history, we cannot and, more importantly, shouldn’t get used to hearing about more brutal murders of a bright, talented, brave people whose only fault was being Ukrainian.”
She drew a parallel between Kerpatenko and Mykola Kulish, the Ukrainian playwright after whom the theatre where the conductor worked is named.
“Kulish was shot on 3 November 1937, near Sandarmokh, with 289 other Ukrainian writers, artists and intellectuals. Yuriy Kerpatenko was shot in his home in Kherson in October 2022,” she said.
The Russians’ actions were “pure genocide”, said the conductor Semyon Bychkov from Paris, where he was performing as music director of the Czech Philharmonic. The St Petersburg-born conductor left Russia as a young man in the 1970s.
“The tragic irony of this is that talk about the superiority of Russian culture, its humanism,” he said. “And here they murdered someone who is actually bringing beauty to people’s lives. It is sickening.
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“The bullets can’t tell one person from another. The fact that this man was a conductor didn’t make me feel any worse; rather, it served as confirmation of the blatant evil that existed in Ukraine even before the first bombs were dropped there.
The novelist Andrey Kurkov, who wrote Death and the Penguin, stated: “Yuriy Kerpatenko’s name will now be added to the list of Ukrainian artists who have been murdered. I’m coming to believe more and more that Russia is actively eradicating Ukrainian identity, of which Ukrainian culture is a significant component, in addition to trying to occupy Ukrainian territories.
Oleksandr Mykhed, a Ukrainian author whose home was destroyed by Russian shelling and who enlisted in the military at the start of the conflict, said: “Russia is trying to reconstruct the Soviet Union in the occupied territories. to put something unlikely back together.
“The eradication of slave countries’ cultures was a key element of Soviet policy. Assassinations of cultural figures, library closures, and language restrictions.
The current occupiers are strictly adhering to this tactic. destroying sport, education, and culture.
We will find out about dozens and dozens of such terrible tales once our territories are liberated. Stories of carnage and valiant resistance.
Anatoliy Solovianenko, chief stage director of Kyiv’s National Opera of Ukraine, described the situation as “absolutely terrifying.” “It doesn’t matter whether he was a doctor, a worker, or an artist. He was a human, and he was not going to submit.
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