Tchaikovsky and Moscow Mules off: consumers vent fury over Ukraine invasion

Madrid restaurant trolled, priest defaces Dublin embassy and orchestra cancels 1812 Overture in anti-Russia actions

A day or so after Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, Sergiy Skorokhvatov decided it might not be a bad idea to go online and clarify what kind of food was on the menu at his Russian and Ukrainian restaurant in central Madrid.

His instincts proved correct. Despite the fact that Skorokhvatov is Ukrainian, and despite the fact that the family’s restaurant serves both Ukrainian and Russian food, its name – Rasputin – swiftly incurred the wrath of some keyboard warriors.

“Someone called me and said it was a good move because another Russian restaurant had been getting reviews saying things like ‘We shouldn’t be spending any of our euros in Russian places’,” Skorokhvatov told the Guardian.

“I thought that changing things would help us, but then people started posting similar stuff about us – ‘Don’t go to Russian restaurants’ – and pictures of blown-up buildings in Ukraine.”

Skorokhvatov, whose parents are still in Kyiv, managed to get Google to take down the political reviews and photos. He is now weighing up whether to change the name of the restaurant his family bought almost four years ago.

His experiences are just one example of the many ways in which people around the world are venting their fury at Russia’s campaign in Ukraine.

‘Putin’ can just be read after the letters were removed from a Jerusalem pub sign
‘Putin’ can just be read after the letters were removed from a Jerusalem pub sign. Photograph: Maya Alleruzzo/AP

Earlier this week Maison de la Poutine, a French restaurant chain serving the French-Canadian favourite poutine – chips, cheese curds and gravy – complained of receiving insults and threats because of the similarity, in French, between the name of the emblematic dish and that of the bellicose Russian president.

In Canada, a Russian pianist was pulled from an upcoming set of performances – even though he had spoken out against the war in Ukraine. The Montreal Symphony Orchestra said in a statement it would be “inappropriate” for 20-year old Alexander Malofeev to perform a series of concertos this week.

Malofeev, who has family members in Ukraine, has previously criticized Russia’s “terrible and bloody” decision to invade the country. The Montreal symphony said it would welcome back Malofeev “when the context allows it.”

On Wednesday, the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra announced that it had decided to exclude Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture from a performance next week. It explained that playing the piece – which commemorates Russia’s victory over Napoleon’s invading forces – would be “inappropriate” given events in Ukraine.

Others have opted for more direct action. In Ireland, opposition to the Russian invasion has been focused on the country’s embassy in Dublin, whose gates were forced open after a truck deliberately reversed in to the estate earlier this week.

The driver, who was charged with criminal damage, said he had felt compelled to act after seeing the pictures that went around the world of a woman and her children lying dead on the street in Irpin.

A priest was also arrested last week after dousing the embassy gates with red paint.

“I feel frightened and powerless,” Father Fergal MacDonagh said. “The only thing I could do was, in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, to pour paint on the gates on the building that is spreading lies and deceit and misinformation about what is happening.” The priest added that he would be “delighted” to be charged.

Local councillors are taking a longer-term approach, and have voted to change the name of the street where the embassy is situated from Orwell Road to Independent Ukraine Road.

Similar thinking is under way in Jerusalem, where the Putin pub has become “the pub formerly known as the Putin”.

The 20-year-old institution on Jaffa Street, the main drag in west Jerusalem, is beloved for its cheap drinks, convivial atmosphere and, occasionally, its Russian-language karaoke.

Its former owners decided to call it Putin as a gimmick: they opened when the former KGB lieutenant colonel was running for president for the first time. But on the day the Russian leader invaded Ukraine, the current owner, Leonid Teterin, removed the big gold letters spelling out “Putin” from the sign.

“We condemn the war and support Ukraine and its people,” Teterin, a Russian-born Israeli, told Israel’s Channel 12 news.

Staff have been asking customers to suggest a new name. The most popular idea so far is the Zelenskiy pub in honour of Ukraine’s Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Bars and restaurants in Brazil’s culinary capital, São Paulo, have also embarked on a nomenclature offensive.

On Tuesday, the celebrated Brazilian chef Janaína Rueda announced she would protest Putin’s “sad war” by refusing to serve stroganoff at her restaurant in São Paulo.

“This is our way of showing our support for the Ukrainians … We’re rooting for peace,” Rueda said. The defiance, however, was short-lived and the stroganoff boycott was reversed after 24 hours following an online backlash against what many saw as a pointless gesture.

At least half a dozen cocktail bars have also taken the Moscow Mule off their menu – and replaced it with the Kyiv or Ukraine Mule.

As he waited for the lunchtime crowd to arrive in Madrid on Thursday, Skorokhvatov tried to explain how he felt about the manner in which some people were responding to the war in his homeland.

“I understand the passion – and that people want to do something to help but don’t know how,” he said. “So some of them go online and post stuff. I’m a little surprised by how some people are, I guess. They’re short-sighted and don’t do any research.”

But, added Skorokhvatov, others had found far more useful ways to express their solidarity: “You can go and donate and you hear of people getting in their cars and going to Ukraine without even knowing where they’re going.”


Sam Jones in Madrid, Tom Phillips in Rio, Bethan McKernan in Jerusalem,Lisa O'Carroll in Dublin and Leyland Cecco in Toronto

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