Robbie Williams will perform at half-time during Sunday’s Soccer Aid game, which is aimed at helping Ukraine war victims – but his appearance has sparked controversy after he previously made cash from Russian oligarchs
Image: Daily Mirror)
The star will perform at half-time during Sunday’s Soccer Aid game, an event he founded in 2006.
But his appearance has sparked controversy given his former financial links to super-rich Russians, some of who are now sanctioned for their close ties to Vladimir Putin who recently invaded Ukraine.
While those gigs took place long before the Kremlin’s tanks rolled in at the end of February, Robbie has consistently maintained a silence over his performances. Nor has he commented on the invasion.
Some other stars who have played to oligarchs have said they will not do so again in light of the Ukraine war.
Labour MP Chris Bryant, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Russia, said: “I’ve long been a fan but Robbie should be ashamed.
“His behaviour is despicable and hypocritical. He’s performed for people closely linked to those who have funded and supported Putin’s barbaric invasion. Robbie should hand every rouble he has earned over to the rebuilding of Ukraine.” A source close to Soccer Aid added: “Robbie’s involvement, or at the very least his refusal to address the issue of his Russian oligarch shows, is tone deaf. The whole thing is deeply uncomfortable.”
In 2018, Robbie played 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 No10 for being “associated with individuals within the government of Russia who are involved in destabilising and threatening the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”.
Robbie also performed for members of Putin’s inner circle at Moscow in 2014, although it is certain he would have had no idea of the horrors the dictator would unleash on Ukraine eight years later.
According to emails leaked by Ukrainian hackers, former Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich laid on the new year event for 100 guests.
Among them, apparently, was former Putin aide Vladislav Surkov, who recently called for Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states to be annexed ahead of the invasion.
He has since been sanctioned by both the EU and the US. Abramovich was sanctioned by No10 in March.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said of oligarchs sanctioned by the UK with their “close links to Putin, they are complicit in his aggression”.
In 2018 Robbie sparked fury among MPs by singing at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Moscow. The event had been boycotted by the British government in the wake of 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 Russian oil magnate Rashid Sardarov’s daughter Victoria in Czech capital Prague.
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While proceeds from Sunday’s game at the London Stadium will go to help children around the world, Soccer Aid and UNICEF said: “The 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 of Ukraine’s children are affected.”
Robbie said of the event, which is being screened on ITV : “On Sunday 12th June, I will sing Angels in front of 60,000 people at the London Stadium. Tickets are selling fast, so I would urge people to snap them up.
“People will be supporting Soccer Aid for UNICEF, which has raised £60million since we started 16 years ago.” Sting sang 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 in any position to book a gig, a wedding or a party. Those days are over.”
His spokesman added the star was “appalled” at the Ukraine invasion and will not play shows for anyone linked to the Putin regime.
Elton John insisted he would not play any shows in Russia “or for anyone connected to Putin”, as did Deep Purple. The band played at a small theatre in the Kremlin for gas giant Gazprom’s 15th anniversary in 2008.
Singer Ian Gillan called it a “sacrifice, but nothing compared with never again seeing our Ukrainian friends who are being killed”.
UNICEF declined to comment. Robbie’s publicist did not reply to requests for comment.