Freedom Fries: West Begins Scrubbing Russia from Cultural Sphere

Russian ballet dancers from "The Kremlin ballet" troupe perform during a special
Getty Images

As well as economic sanctions on Russia in the wake of its relaunched invasion of Ukraine, several attempts to isolate the Eurasian state culturally are also underway.

After the country’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia has found itself at the business end of a host of sanctions targeting the regional power’s economy and military sector.

Russia is also finding itself quickly being frozen out of the cultural sphere of the western world, with organisations, companies and people dropping all things to do with the eastern European state.

Big Tech:

Concern over Russian media influence online is nothing new, with Social media giants have been targeting Russian propaganda since long before the war in Ukraine began.

However, according to a report by Le Monde, Big Tech has since dramatically stepped up its own war on Russian influence, with a number of state media broadcasters being heavily censored on social media platforms.

Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Tiktok have all taken action against RT and Sputnik News, with Google and Facebook totally blocking access to the social media accounts of both Russian outlets from Europe.


“Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, we’re blocking YouTube channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe, effective immediately,” wrote Google Europe in a statement online.

“Our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock to take swift action,” it continued.

“We have received requests from a number of Governments and the EU to take further steps in relation to Russian state controlled media,” a statement by Facebook’s Nick Clegg read regarding censorship on the company’s platforms.

“Given the exceptional nature of the current situation, we will be restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU at this time,” the ex-Deputy PM of the United Kingdom confirmed.


Ukrainian colours ahead of the English League Cup final football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium, north-west London on February 27, 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Tech is not the only area where Russia is being isolated culturally.

A number of measures both large and small have hit the country and its leader within the sporting world including a near-total ban of the country from international soccer tournaments.

Both the country’s club and national soccer teams are now under the effect of the ban implemented by bodies FIFA and UEFA, which will prevent Russia from competing in the upcoming world cup.

“Following the initial decisions adopted by the FIFA Council and the UEFA Executive Committee, which envisaged the adoption of additional measures, FIFA and UEFA have today decided together that all Russian teams, whether national representative teams or club teams, shall be suspended from participation in both FIFA and UEFA competitions until further notice,” the joint statement from the two organisations read.

“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine. Both Presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people,” it continued, with FIFA adding that the ban was effective immediately.

Meanwhile, Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich has been pencilled in by British MPs for sanctions, with The Guardian reporting politicians as calling for the Russian oligarch’s assets to be seized, despite his claims that he is trying to broker a peace deal regarding the conflict.

The oligarch has been accused of “corrupt activity and practices”, with Labour MP Chris Bryant saying he should be banned from owning the famous British football club.

Soccer is not the only realm where Russia has been targeted, however.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended that international sporting competitions ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in sporting events. The statement comes just in time for the end of the Beijing winter games.

On Tuesday, the National Hockley League announced it was suspending all partnerships with Russia.

The World Tae Kwon Do Federation has stripped Vladimir Putin of his honorary black belt over the ongoing conflict, while the International Judo Federation has suspended the Russian leader’s position as its honorary president.

Putin is well known for being a keen practitioner of martial arts, earning a black belt in Judo before entering politics and penning a book titled “Judo: History, Theory, Practice”.


Russian ballet has been stood down by theatres in both the UK and Ireland, with The Helix in Dublin cancelling a performance of Swan Lake by the Royal Moscow Ballet, while London’s Royal Opera House has cancelled the upcoming temporary residency of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet.

Both venues cited the ongoing conflict for the decision.

Other parts of the music world have also seen Russian artists de-platformed, with Eurovision prohibiting the appearance of a Russian delegation at the 2022 song contest, while the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra has reportedly dismissed its conductor Valeri Gergiev over his alleged ties with Vladimir Putin.

Hollywood giants have also taken measures against the invading power, with a number of major studios pausing releases over hostilities in Ukraine.

Disney, Sony, and Warner Brothers have all announced that they will be pausing box office releases in Putin’s Russia as a result of the war.

“In light of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, WarnerMedia is pausing the release of its feature film The Batman in Russia,” read a statement from one of the companies. “We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves. We hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to this tragedy.”


Perhaps the strangest casualty of the new, international culture war however is Aleksandr Orlov, a fictional meerkat oligarch used to advertise a UK price comparison site.

Velvet smoking jacket and cravat wearing Orlov — who appears to be styled off the stereotype of a Russian oligarch — has been stripped from British television.

“The meerkats are fictional characters,” the company said in a statement on the decision. “They have no association with Russia and the current situation,”

“We are continually reviewing our advertising to ensure we’re being sensitive to the current situation,” it continues.


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