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Roger Waters cancels concert in Poland after controversial statements on Ukraine

Roger Waters canceled a concert in Krakow, Poland, after several controversial statements about the war in Ukraine.

Roger Waters, 79, co-founder of the rock band Pink Floyd, has just given himself a few days of vacation for the spring of 2023. His This Is Not A Drill tour, which kicked off in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in July and will continue until the final concert in London, England, in 2023, will not make a stop at the Tauron Arena in Krakow, Poland, next April. The decision comes as his comments about Russia's invasion of Ukraine continue to draw backlash from the international community.

As the Associated Press reported Saturday, the rocker, whose current show begins by telling those who wish Roger would stop talking about politics and just sing to "get the hell out of the bar right now," has made the decision himself not to come. "Roger Waters' manager has decided to pull out…without giving a reason," Lukasz Pytko, a manager at the 18,000-capacity venue, told reporters.

Two million Ukrainian refugees in Poland

The news came ahead of a scheduled vote by Krakow city councillors to decide whether Roger Waters should be named persona non grata following comments the musician made about the war in Ukraine. It is not yet known whether this vote will take place (nor to what extent such a declaration would be binding).

Poland has taken in an estimated 2 million Ukrainian refugees since the war began. For the most part, the government and citizens have done so warmly.

Earlier this month, Roger Waters, who regularly leads his audiences in the refrain "We don't need no education," sent an open letter to Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska after she appeared in a BBC interview and asked for continued support for her country. The musician wrote to condemn "the West for continuing to supply arms to the armies of the Kiev government," suggesting that those who do so "have already declared their interest in the war lasting as long as possible."

He then added a list of action items that she should pass on to her husband and blamed the war on President Volodymyr Zelensky's refusal to accept a policy of appeasement toward Vladimir Putin. "Extreme nationalists," he wrote, "set your country on the path to this disastrous war." "Unfortunately, your old man," he continues condescendingly, "accepted these totalitarian and undemocratic rejections of the will of the Ukrainian people, and the forces of extreme nationalism that had lurked, malevolently, in the shadows, have, ever since, governed Ukraine."

"I am much, much, much more important than any of them will ever be"

This is far from the first time Waters has made controversial remarks. For years, his criticism of Israel has crossed the fine line of anti-Semitism, and phrases like "lurking, malicious, in the shadows" in his open letter about Zelensky, one of the few world leaders who happens to be Jewish, don't do much to help the claims against the charge of anti-Semitism.

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In 2019, he condemned Richard Branson's fundraising efforts for a humanitarian aid concert for Venezuela, suggesting that it was all a false flag operation by the United States to tarnish the Latin American country's socialist government.

More recently, in the pop culture realm, he got himself into trouble by dropping cluster bombs on The Weeknd and Drake when he complained to a Toronto culture reporter about the lack of coverage of his recent concerts in that city: "I'm much, much, much more important than any of them will ever be," he said of the two contemporary stars, who are among the most successful of all time.

Complicated relationships

Waters co-founded Pink Floyd in 1965, and left the band in 1985 for a solo career. When the remaining members, David Gilmour and Nick Mason, continued to operate under the Pink Floyd name, he sued them, unsuccessfully. While Pink Floyd has been largely dormant in recent years, especially since the 2008 death of Richard Wright, another co-founder who left the band but returned after Waters' departure, they surprised the public with the release of a new song last April.

Hey Hey Rise Up, a charity track recorded with Ukrainian musician Andriy Khlyvnyuk, reached No. 2 on Billboard's Digital Songs chart in the U.S., entered the top 20 in the U.K. and has nearly 11 million views on YouTube. Upon the song's release, David Gilmour wrote, "Like many, we felt the fury and frustration of this despicable act of an independent, peaceful democratic country being invaded and its people murdered by one of the world's leading powers."

Written by Michael Zippo

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