Antony Blinken ‘Rocking Out’ at Kyiv Bar Sparks Controversy

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took to the stage to perform with a Ukrainian band at a bar on Tuesday night during a surprise trip to Kyiv, drawing mixed reactions on social media.

Before performing a rendition of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” with Kyiv punk band 19.99, Blinken told his audience that the U.S. would continue to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia in the ongoing war.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken performs “Rockin’ in the Free World” with members of the band 19.99 at the Barman Dictat bar in Kyiv on May 14, 2024. The United States will back Ukraine…


“The United States is with you. So much of the world is with you. And they’re fighting, not just for a free Ukraine, but for the free world. And the free world is with you, too,” Blinken said.

Footage of Blinken’s performance has been circulated widely on social media, with users divided on his trip to the music bar in central Kyiv, Barman Dictat, which also serves as a war bunker. Russian forces are advancing in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, as recently approved U.S. aid trickles into the war-torn country.

“If you’re gonna rock out in Kyiv while thousands of civilians flee Kharkiv and the ZSU [Ukrainian army] suffer losses caused in part by US aid delays, you better be seriously going to the mat for #Ukraine now. Otherwise this will age very, very badly,” wrote Jessica Berlin, a nonresident senior fellow with the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) think tank, on X, formerly Twitter.

Some social-media users defended Blinken’s move to perform in Kyiv, while others said it may come across as “tone-deaf.”

“He began by acknowledging his awareness of the current hardships faced by the soldiers and the country, which is why he chose to play this specific song. It serves as both a protest song and a political statement,” one X user commented.

Vedant Patel posted: “Tonight at Barman at Dictat in Kyiv. @SecBlinken saw firsthand that the spirit of Ukraine remains unbreakable.”

Shaun Pinner, a former British soldier and Ukrainian marine, wrote: “[I’m] the opposite to be fair! He is here after all!”

Ostap Yarysh, a journalist with VOA News, posted on X that “while some in the West view Blinken’s performance in a bar in Kyiv as an example of soft power and diplomacy, most Ukrainians in my feed consider it tone-deaf, given the Russian offensive in the Kharkiv region and the difficult situation with power outages in the country.”

“With all due respect, but it looks like a mockery of Ukrainians, while the [Russians] are destroying us, the Americans forbid us to use weapons,” another X user added.

Russia’s forces kick-started a new attack near Kharkiv last week, dropping guided aerial bombs and forcing residents to flee.

Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, told the New York Times on Tuesday that the situation in the Kharkiv region “moves toward critical” every hour.

“The situation is on the edge,” Budanov told the publication from a bunker in Kharkiv, saying that he believes Moscow intends to stretch Ukraine’s reserves of soldiers thin.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based think tank, assessed on Tuesday that the pace of Russian offensive operations in Kharkiv appears to have slowed over the past day.

“The pattern of Russian offensive activity in this area is consistent with ISW’s assessment that Russian forces are prioritizing the creation of a ‘buffer zone’ in the international border area over a deeper penetration of Kharkiv Oblast,” the think tank said.

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