In a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, pop icon Alla Pugacheva — perhaps the best-known and most-beloved Soviet-Russian singer of all time — has joined the ranks of Russia’s anti-Ukraine-war celebrities.
In an Instagram post Sunday, Pugacheva dared the Russian justice ministry to label her a “foreign agent,” as it did her outspoken comedian husband Maxim Galkin on September 16.
“Please include me in the ranks of foreign agents of my beloved country,” Pugacheva wrote Sunday, “since I am in solidarity with my husband.” She called Galkin “a true and incorruptible patriot of Russia who wants his homeland to flourish in peace, with freedom of speech, and wants an end to our boys dying for illusory goals, which has turned our country into a pariah state and made life a burden for our citizens.”
Those branded “foreign agents” by Russia are subject to various restrictions such as being barred from working with minors and teaching at state-run universities, and may face time in prison if they don’t comply. The label has echoes of the “enemy of the people” designation used by Moscow to smear opponents of the Soviet regime.
Pugacheva and Galkin left Russia shortly after Putin invaded Ukraine in February, but she returned to the country last month. It’s not known whether she is currently in Russia.
Pugacheva joins other Russian celebrities who have spoken out against the war, including rappers Oxxxymiron and Noize MC, comedian Ivan Urgant (Russia’s answer to Stephen Colbert), legendary rocker Yuri Shevchuk (the frontman of the band DDT), Andrei Makarevich (a founder of Russia’s oldest still-active rock band Mashina Vremeni) and Boris Grebenshchikov (considered among Russian rock’s founding fathers).
But Pugacheva’s cultural heft is singular.
She is as beloved as America’s sweetheart Dolly Parton, as ubiquitous as Madonna, as closely watched as a Kardashian.
Now aged 73, Pugacheva has been a hit-maker since the mid-70s. In 1991, she was awarded the title of “People’s Artist of the USSR” — the highest honor possible for a musician. On her 60th birthday in 2009, Dmitry Medvedev, then the Russian president and now a pugnacious warmonger known for his tirades calling for escalation in the war against Ukraine, awarded Pugacheva the 3rd Degree Order of Merit for the Fatherland.
Pugacheva has never strayed far from the headlines. Her fifth marriage in 2011 — to Galkin, then aged 35 (and almost three decades her junior) — sparked a media frenzy, as did the birth of the couple’s twins, via surrogate, in 2013.
Galkin, a humorist known for his impersonations (including of Putin and his ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko), has spoken out against the regime over the years, taking aim at Russia’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws, which he labeled a “witch hunt” deployed by the Kremlin to distract the public from other issues.
And while Pugacheva had not directly addressed the war until her Instagram post Sunday, Galkin, who was born in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, has made his feelings clear.
On August 23 — Ukrainian Flag Day — Galkin performed in Poland dressed in sunflower-yellow pants and a blue suit jacket — the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Wilhelmine Preussen contributed reporting.