It has been reported that the well-known brass band conductor Craig Roberts has been publicly criticised after travelling to Russia to participate in what has been described as a "anti-fascist song festival" that was allegedly a propaganda event in support of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
The news article written by journalist Martin Shipton appeared on the Nation Cymru website — an English language Welsh news service.
It stated that Mr Roberts and children's author Mike Church visited Samara, around 600 miles southeast of Moscow for the event during which the journalist stated, "...invited artistes performed on a stage emblazoned with the letter Z, the symbol associated with Putin's "special military operation"."
The report went on to say: "Independent journalists who covered the event said Russian Army recruiters were present, trying to sign up volunteers to join the war on Ukraine."
According to the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the festival was sponsored by the Moscow Caledonian Club, a Scottish cultural centre that operates with official sanction, as well as by the Kremlin.
The Nation Cymru report added; "...the head of the Moscow Caledonian Club, Vitaly Mironov, took to the stage to say that anti-fascist songs would once again inspire the fight against evil."
It also stated that, "...Mr Roberts and Mr Church took part in a video manifesto repeating core Putin messages about the Russian people facing "complete annihilation" and referring to an unnamed Western fascist power."
In response to the news of the visit, the Labour MS Mick Antoniw, the Counsel General for Wales who has organised relief missions for Ukraine, was reported as saying: "It is appalling that these people have gone on this freebie and allowed themselves to be used for propaganda purposes by Russia.
I don't know whether they are just extremely naive, but Putin will certainly regard them as useful idiots."
In a statement to Nation Cymru Mr Roberts said: "For my own part, I have been travelling to Russia and participating in cultural events there for over 15 years. In 2013, I was fortunate to visit Ukraine also.
The current situation in the Donbass, and the conflict that has been raging in that region for eight years now, is a tragedy. I firmly believe that it is deeply important that channels of communication — particularly cultural — remain open however, particularly at times like this, between all nations, and that greater dialogue and mediation is required to resolve the current crisis."
He added: "At some point — hopefully soon — this conflict will end, and bridges between nations will need to be rebuilt. Hopefully at that point culture, and the links retained during these challenging times, will be able to play a role ."
According to his website, Mr Roberts is Musical Director of Lewis Merthyr Band, City of Bristol Band and Symphonic Brass Wales, in addition to being director of the Estes Park International Tattoo in Colorado, USA, a consultant to the Musikfest der Bundeswehr of Dusseldorf, Germany, and a trustee of Grimethorpe Colliery Band.
It states that he is currently vice chair of the Cross Party Group for Music at the Senedd (Welsh Parliament), vice-chair of international twinning for Rhondda Cynon Council and a business development and marketing officer to St Elvan's, Cynon Valley.
I firmly believe that it is deeply important that channels of communication — particularly cultural — remain open however, particularly at times like this...Craig Roberts
He has extensive experience of organising and being involved in numerous cultural projects in Wales and abroad, including 'The Bards of Wales' in Budapest, the Cradogfest in Rhondda Cynon Taff and the London 2012 Olympics amongst numerous others.
He was the Musical Director of the World Military Music Festival in Libya in 2009 celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Libyan People's Arab Jamahiriya, which included performances before its Head of State, Colonel Gaddafi.
2013 he led the ensemble Symphonic Brass Wales on a tour to Ukraine as well as to Moscow in 2017, Krasnodar and Crimea in 2018 and Yalta and Moscow in 2019. It has also toured Germany, Belgium and Greece.
The news report can be viewed at: https://nation.cymru/news/welsh-cultural-figures-criticised-for-taking-part-in-putin-propaganda-event/
Mr Roberts website can be found at: https://www.croberts100.com/