Russia has added a popular Ukrainian singer who won the Eurovision contest seven years ago to its wanted list, as Moscow expands its efforts to target cultural figures who have criticized its invasion of Ukraine.
The singer, known professionally as Jamala, appeared in the Russian Interior Ministry’s wanted persons database under the name Susana A. Dzhamaladinova. Her name appeared to have been added to the list in October, but was published in Russian media on Monday.
The list does not specify the accusations against her, but according to Zona Media, a Russian news website, Jamala, 40, has been accused by authorities of spreading false information about the activities of the Russian military.
The move is likely to have little more than a symbolic impact for the singer, who lives in Ukraine. Jamala, who is currently in Australia, reacted to the news by posting a photo of herself in front of the Sydney Opera House on Instagram with a face palm emoji superimposed on it.
The Ukrainian singer is of Crimean Tatar origin and has been a prominent defender of the Tatar people who were originally from the Crimean Peninsula but were deported in large numbers when the region was part of the Soviet Union. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 after a popular uprising toppled a pro-Russian president in the Ukrainian capital, kyiv.
Jamala won the Eurovision song contest in 2016 with a song dedicated to Crimean Tatars who were deported in the 1940s after being accused of cooperating with Nazi Germany. Her ancestors were deported to Central Asia, where she was born.
“No matter where I am, the first priority for me is to remember that foreigners came to my house to kill and maim lives, to destroy and rewrite my culture,” Jamala told President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in November 2022. “It happened in 1944, and then in 2014, and now again,” he said. “Now everyone in Ukraine understands that this can happen to anyone, if the evil is not stopped and brought to justice for the crime.”
Ukraine has been using Crimean Tatar heritage to counter Russian cultural domination of the region, which became part of the Russian empire after its conquest in the 18th century. In 1954, the peninsula passed from Russian to Ukrainian authority within the Soviet Union.
The attack on Jamala appears to be part of a campaign by Moscow to silence activists who refuse to accept its rule in Crimea and who oppose the war against Ukraine, both within Russia and beyond its borders.
According to Izvestia, a Russian newspaper, more than 30 Ukrainian artists had been banned from entering Russia since April 2022.
At least a dozen popular Russian artists who publicly condemned the invasion of Ukraine were declared “foreign agents,” a term that stigmatized them for being on the payroll of foreign governments. Many other artists were banned from performing in the country.
Russia has also stepped up efforts to create its own popular music market, after being essentially locked out of the European market (including the Eurovision contest) following the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Last week, Olga B. Lyubimova, Russia’s culture minister, announced the creation of the country’s own popular song contest, called Intervision, according to Interfax, a Russian news agency. It will share its name with the communist equivalent of the Eurovision song contest during the Soviet era.