Robbie Williams Called ‘Hypocritical’ Over Ukraine Gig Due to Links to Russian Oligarchs
Robbie Williams will perform at half-time at Sunday’s Soccer Aid match, which aims to help victims of war in Ukraine – but his appearance has sparked controversy after previously earning money from Russian oligarchs.
Image: Daily Mirror)
Robbie Williams is facing allegations of hypocrisy for promoting a football game to help victims of war in Ukraine after previously making money from Russian oligarchs.
The star will perform at half-time at Sunday’s Soccer Aid match, an event he founded in 2006.
But his appearance has sparked controversy given his former financial ties to super-rich Russians, some of whom are now sanctioned for their close ties to Vladimir Putin who recently invaded Ukraine.
While those gigs took place long before the Kremlin tanks arrived in late February, Robbie has always kept quiet about his performances. He also did not comment on the invasion.
Some other stars who have played with oligarchs have said they won’t do so again in light of the war in Ukraine.
Labor MP Chris Bryant, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Russia, said: ‘I’ve been a long time fan, but Robbie should be ashamed.
“His behavior is despicable and hypocritical. He played for people closely linked to those who financed and supported Putin’s barbaric invasion. Robbie should donate every ruble he earned to rebuilding Ukraine. A source close to Soccer Aid added: “Robbie’s involvement, or at least his refusal to address the issue of his Russian oligarch shows, is muted. The whole thing is deeply uncomfortable.
In 2018, Robbie performed at a private party to celebrate the 25th anniversary of MegaFon, the Russian mobile phone company controlled by oligarch Alisher Usmanov.
The former Arsenal FC shareholder was sanctioned in March by No 10 for being “associated with individuals within the Russian government involved in the destabilization and threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence “.
Robbie also played for members of Putin’s inner circle in Moscow in 2014, although he is sure he would have had no idea of the horrors the dictator would unleash on Ukraine eight years later.
According to leaked emails from Ukrainian hackers, former Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich hosted the New Year’s Eve event for 100 guests.
Among them, apparently, was Putin’s former aide Vladislav Surkov, who recently called for the annexation of Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states ahead of the invasion.
It has since been sanctioned by the EU and the US. Abramovich was sanctioned by No.10 in March.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said of the oligarchs sanctioned by the UK because of their “close ties to Putin, that they are complicit in his aggression”.
In 2018, Robbie sparked the fury of MPs by singing at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Moscow. The event had been boycotted by the British government following the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
In 2016, the singer was reportedly paid £1.6million for performing at the wedding of Victoria, the daughter of Russian oil tycoon Rashid Sardarov, in the Czech capital Prague.
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While proceeds from Sunday’s match at London Stadium will be used to help children around the world, Soccer Aid and UNICEF said: “Money raised this year could help provide safe spaces to protect children in times of crisis, such as the conflict in Ukraine. All 7.5 million Ukrainian children are affected.
Robbie said of the event, which airs on ITV: “On Sunday June 12, I’ll be performing Angels in front of 60,000 people at the London Stadium. Tickets are selling out fast, so I urge people to buy them.
“People will support Soccer Aid for UNICEF, which has raised £60m since we started 16 years ago.” Sting performed at the lavish wedding of Mikhail Gutseriev’s son Said in Moscow, five years before the oligarch was sanctioned by the EU. The star said in March: “No oligarch is able to book a concert, a wedding or a party. Those days are over.
His spokesman added that the star was “appalled” by the invasion of Ukraine and will not play shows for anyone linked to Putin’s regime.
Elton John insisted he would not play any shows in Russia “or for anyone linked to Putin”, as Deep Purple has done. The band performed at a small Kremlin theater for gas giant Gazprom’s 15th anniversary in 2008.
Singer Ian Gillan called it “a sacrifice, but nothing like never seeing our Ukrainian friends who are being killed again”.
UNICEF declined to comment. Robbie’s publicist did not respond to requests for comment.