Roger Waters condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in an open letter to 19-year-old Ukrainian woman named Alina Mitrofanova. “I am disgusted by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” he wrote Wednesday.
“It is a criminal mistake in my opinion, the act of a gangster. There must be an immediate ceasefire. I regret that Western governments are fueling the fire that will destroy your beautiful country by pouring arms into Ukraine, instead of engaging in the diplomacy that will be necessary to stop the slaughter.”
The former Pink Floyd singer-songwriter also put the text of his letter in a video that accompanied with his recent re-recording of Floyd’s anti-war song, “The Gunner’s Dream.”
“I will do anything I can to help effect the end of this awful war in your country, anything that is except wave a flag to encourage the slaughter,” he wrote. “That is what the gangsters want, they want us to wave flags. That is how they divide and control us, by encouraging the waving of flags, to create a smokescreen of enmity to blind us to our innate capacity to empathize with one another, while they plunder and rape our fragile planet. I will do everything in my power to help bring peace back to you and your family and your beautiful country.”
He also underscored his belief in universal human rights. “Please believe me when I tell you that I believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed in Paris 1948,” he wrote. “I have fought as hard as I know how to foster and support human rights for all my brothers and sisters all over the world for as long as I can remember, and I support you and yours now, with all my heart.”
Waters, who is known for occasionally making eyebrow-raising political opinions, also used the note to blast “the gangster hawks in Washington” and quotes his lyrics to a song from his solo album Amused to Death by saying they enjoyed “the bravery of being out of range.”
Previously, he has made statements that have suggested that he sympathized with Putin: In 2018, a Ukrainian watchdog group placed Waters on its unofficial blacklist, according to RadioFreeEurope, for claiming that Russia’s annexation of Crimea four years earlier had been “provoked” by the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych in a Russian newspaper. Billboard reported at the time that Waters’ words echoed the sentiments of the Kremlin. Earlier this year, Waters also rankled fans by posting Putin’s “family memories of WW2” to his Facebook page.
Now Waters is condemning Putin and says he hopes Zelensky has his citizens’ best interests in mind too. “I desperately hope your president is not a gangster too and that he will do what is best for his people, and demand of the Americans that they come to the table,” he wrote. “Sadly however, many world leaders are gangsters and my disgust for political gangsters did not start last week with Putin.”
He went on to cite what he perceived as “gangster” acts by several world leaders over the past 50 years, including former heads of state of the U.S., the U.K., and Israel. (Waters, who has long advocated for the Palestinian people, has shot down accusations that he was an antisemite. “I am not an antisemite or against the Israeli people,” Waters once said. “I am a critic of the policies of the government of Israel.”) He also disputed Mitrofanova’s claim that Ukraine was “200 percent” free of neo-Nazis, pointing out that that Ukraine’s Azov Battalion and C14 groups were run by neo-Nazis.
Mitrofanova wrote that she was interested in Waters’ opinion on the war because she was a “huge Pink Floyd and Roger Waters fan” and because she “cannot understand how a person, who wrote a significant number of anti-war lyrics, hasn’t spoken about tragedy yet.”
In his note to her, Waters provided a link to an op-ed he’d written last week for Brave New Europe in which he also condemned the war. “Russia is an unadulterated neoliberal capitalist gangster’s paradise, modeled during the time of its horrific restructuring under Boris Yeltsin (1991 – 1999) on the United States of America,” he wrote. “It should come as no surprise that its autocratic, and possibly unhinged leader, Vladimir Putin, has no more respect for the UN Charter and international law than recent presidents of the United States or prime ministers of England have had.”
Waters also blasted the American news media in the Brave New Europe missive for implying that the Ukrainian war was a greater atrocity than western invasions in Afghanistan or Iraq because “[Ukrainians] look like us.” “The implication is that it’s somehow more acceptable to make war on people whose skin is brown or black and drive them from their homes than people who ‘look like us,'” he wrote “It’s not. All refugees, all people who struggle are our brothers and sisters.”
The artist, who is currently prepping for a summer North American tour, also recently threw his support behind jailed Kurdish musician, Nûdem Durak, who is serving a 19-year sentence in Turkey for guilt by association. To raise awareness for her case, he is sending her a guitar signed by Robert Plant, Peter Gabriel, Pete Townshend, Brian May, and himself, among many other notable rockers.
“Nûdem Durak is our sister,” Waters told Rolling Stone, “and we have an absolute responsibility to support her and the hundreds of thousands of others who continue to suffer her fate with false imprisonment and incarceration all over the world, not least in the United States and the United Kingdom.”