Finnish official plays cello in support of Ukraine, Russia

Anders Adlerkreutz, Finland’s European affairs minister, has long been critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin for leading a “mad war” and calling on Western governments to send tanks into Kiev.

On Sunday, Mr Adlercreutz tried a different tactic: He posted a video of himself on social media playing a patriotic Ukrainian song on the cello to mark 500 days of conflict. The video also shows images of bombed-out buildings, along with phrases such as “unspeakable aggression”, as well as hopeful symbols such as fields of sunflowers and a dove in flight.

Mr. Adlercreutz said in an interview: “I wanted to give comfort to Ukrainians here in Finland and in other countries, and make it clear that they are not being ignored, and that their culture, music and language are not forgotten.”

To his surprise, the video garnered over a million views across a variety of platforms, and received an avalanche of comments from Ukrainians applauding the performance.

Russian officials tried to portray the video as part of Western countries’ efforts to influence public opinion ahead of a NATO meeting this week that President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attended. (Finland became the alliance’s 31st member country in April, a strategic defeat for Mr. Putin.)

In a television appearance this week, Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, denounced the NATO meeting as a “colorful performance” that was “in the worst traditions of Western manipulation,” according to Russian news reports. She went on to say that “Finnish government ministers are recording cello solos in support of Ukraine”. Russia in recent months has been harshly criticizing Finland for joining NATO, say She “lost her independence.”

The video features the Ukrainian song “The Red Viburnum in the Meadow”, written during World War I, which has long been associated with Ukraine’s struggle for independence.

Since the invasion, the song has emerged as a popular anthem for the Ukrainian cause. A few days after the war broke out, Ukrainian musician Andriy Khlevnyuk, of the band Boombox, recorded a defiant performance with a gun slung across his chest.

Last year, Pink Floyd released a remixed version of the song, featuring Mr. Khlevnyuk, to raise money for the people of Ukraine, their first new song in nearly three decades.

Since the invasion, Ukrainians have used music to draw attention to suffering, following in the tradition of improvised performances by ordinary citizens in war zones, in the Balkans, Syria and elsewhere. Last year a cellist performed Bach’s aria in the middle of a deserted street in Kharkiv, behind him the shattered windows of the headquarters of the regional police.

Mr. Adlercreutz, who began studying the cello when he was 11 years old, said he was inspired by Ukrainian musicians, including Mr. Khlevnyuk. He recorded “The Red Viburnum in the Meadow” in February at the Parliament House in Helsinki, playing various pieces of music that he later mixed together.

He said it was important to use culture to draw attention to Ukraine.

He said, “I want to send a message to Ukrainians that we see you, get to know you, support you, and not forget where you come from and what you’re going through.” “We can easily forget war, but this is a message we really must repeat.”