Valery Gergiev, the internationally renowned Russian conductor, has joined a host of other arts and cultural figures from Russia in support of President Vladimir Putin’s controversial policies in Ukraine’s Crimea region.
The conductor was one of 100 signatories of an open letter released this week backing Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and the government’s efforts to annex Crimea. The letter was posted on the website of Russia’s culture ministry on Wednesday.
The letter’s signatories say that they “firmly state support for the position of the president of the Russian Federation” in the region, according to translated reports.
Gergiev has long been a supporter of Putin and appeared in a promotional video a few years ago in support of him.
Other prominent signatories include pianist Denis Matsuev, who recently appeared with Gergiev at the closing ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics, and Vladimir Urin, head of Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre. Former Bolshoi dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who heads a dance academy in St. Petersburg, also signed the letter.
Many of the signatories of the letter are Russian arts administrators and leaders whose organizations receive state support. Gergiev is the head of the prestigious Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.
On Wednesday, President Obama was scheduled to host Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk at the White House in a meeting that many are interpreting as a sign that the U.S. endorses the legitimacy of the new government.
Last month, the pro-Russian government in Ukraine fell after weeks of street protests paralyzed the country’s capital, Kiev. The Russian Federation regards the new government as illegitimate and has sent military forces to the region.
Gergiev was criticized by gay activists in the U.S. and Europe last year for what they saw as his support for Putin’s anti-gay laws. But the conductor has publicly denied that he has ever supported anti-gay legislation.