Russian soldiers shot dead a Ukrainian musician in his home after he refused to take part in a concert in occupied Kherson, according to the Ministry of Culture in Kyiv.
Conductor Yuriy Kerpatenko refused to take part in a concert “intended by the occupiers to demonstrate the so-called ‘improvement of peaceful life’ in Kherson”, the ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page.
The Oct. 1 concert was intended to feature the Gileya Chamber Orchestra, of which Kerpatenko was the principal conductor, but he “categorically refused to cooperate with the occupiers,” the statement said.
Kerpatenko, who was also the chief conductor of the Mykola Kulish Music and Drama Theater in Kherson, had posted defiant messages on his Facebook page until May.
The Kherson Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Ukraine opened a formal investigation “on the basis of violations of the laws and customs of war, combined with intentional murder”. Family members outside Kherson lost contact with the driver in September, he added.
Condemnation by Ukrainian and international artists was swift. “The story of Russia imposing a ‘do or die’ policy against artists is nothing new. It has a history that spans hundreds of years,” said Finnish-Ukrainian conductor Dalia Stasevska, who was due to conduct Last Night of the Proms at London’s Albert Hall last month before it is canceled due to the Queen’s death.
“I’ve seen too much silence from Russian colleagues,” she said. “Could this be the time for Russian musicians, especially those who live and work abroad, to finally take a stand against the actions of the Russian regime in Ukraine?
A fortnight ago, Stasevska drove a truckload of humanitarian supplies to Lviv from her home in Finland, before leading the INSO-Lviv Orchestra in a concert of Ukrainian contemporary music.
“We know that the Russian regime is hunting activists, journalists, artists, community leaders and anyone willing to resist the occupation,” said award-winning Ukrainian novelist turned war crimes investigator Victoria Amelina .
“Yet even knowing the current pattern and history, we cannot and, more importantly, must not get used to hearing about more brutal murders of a brilliant, talented and courageous people whose only fault was to be Ukrainian.”
She drew a parallel between Kerpatenko and Mykola Kulish, the Ukrainian playwright after whom the theater where the conductor worked is named.
“Kulish was shot on November 3, 1937, near Sandarmokh, along with 289 other Ukrainian writers, artists and intellectuals. Yuriy Kerpatenko was shot dead at his home in Kherson in October 2022,” she said.
The Russians’ actions were “pure genocide”, said conductor Semyon Bychkov of Paris, where he was performing as music director of the Czech Philharmonic. The Saint Petersburg-born conductor left Russia as a young man in the 1970s.
“The tragic irony of all this is that we are talking about the superiority of Russian culture, of its humanism,” he said. “And here they murdered someone who actually brings beauty to people’s lives. It’s disgusting.
“Bullets do not distinguish between people. It didn’t make me feel worse that this man was a conductor, it just confirmed the pure evil that was happening even before the first bombs fell on Ukraine.
Novelist Andrey Kurkov, author of Death and the Penguin, said: “From now on the name of Yuriy Kerpatenko will be added to the list of murdered artists of Ukraine. I increasingly believe that Russia seeks not only to occupy Ukrainian territories, but also to diligently destroy Ukrainian identity, an important part of which is Ukrainian culture.
Ukrainian author Oleksandr Mykhed, who joined the army at the start of the war and whose home was destroyed by Russian bombing, said: “Russia is trying to rebuild the Soviet Union in the occupied territories. Reconstruct something improbable.
“One of the key elements of Soviet policy was the destruction of the culture of the enslaved countries. Assassination of cultural figures, purge of libraries, banning of national languages.
“Modern occupants fully follow this strategy. Destroy culture, sport, education.
“And when our territories are cleared, we will learn dozens and hundreds of such terrible stories. Stories of destruction and heroic resistance.
“It’s absolutely terrifying,” said Anatoliy Solovianenko, chief director of the Ukrainian National Opera in Kyiv. “Whether he is a doctor, a worker or an artist, it makes no difference. He was a human and he refused to comply.