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Okean Elzy lead singer Vakartšuk

‘My guitar is my machine gun’

Top Ukrainian rock group Okean Elzy is scheduled to perform at Saku Suurhall in Tallinn. Lead singer Svjatoslav Vakartuk talked about his experience playing for soldiers on the front lines of the Ukrainian conflict in an interview with the ETV current affairs program “Ringvaade” conducted before to the performance. He also expressed his gratitude to Estonians for supporting his nation ever since Russia’s military incursion began in February.
 |  Borena Kuliashvili  |  , ,

Vakartuk stated in the interview that the band’s performance will be a little different from that of prior tours and that their set list has logically been modified to match the current circumstances.

“We will sing some songs, which are definitely dedicated to the situation in Ukraine now,” said Vakartšuk.

According to him, the band often acts in a “very casual style” while performing, but due to the circumstances, this has not been the case on their current tour.

Vakartuk has noticed a sense of oneness throughout Europe that seemed unimaginable just a year or two ago as a result of Okean Elzy’s concerts in several European locations in recent months that have brought attention to the situation in their home country. The massive show of solidarity for Ukraine in Europe has also not escaped his notice, and the lead singer of Okean Elzy is eager to thank the Estonian people in person at the concert.

“In this respect, I need to admit that the Baltic countries, namely Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are doing a tremendous job in supporting Ukraine,” he said, adding that at the Tallinn show, he would also like to express thanks to the Estonian people on behalf of everyone in Ukraine.

One of the most well-known music stars in Ukraine, Vakartuk, did not hesitate to enlist in the army, receiving the rank of lieutenant, when Russia began its full-scale military invasion of Ukraine in February. But the lead singer of Okean Elzy was advised that the best thing he could do for Ukraine was to keep performing music, which is what he does best.

“My commanders advised me to go and support the troops, not by using a gun, but by doing what I’m doing. As my machine gun, I’m using my guitar,” he said.

Vakartuk, who has now performed 140 solo gigs on the front lines, claims that he now misses these events much more than performing at large concerts in stadiums and arenas.

“It’s acoustic, Bob Dylan style. I’m just playing my guitar and that’s it,” he said. “Sometimes it’s in the trenches, literally for 15-20 people. But, I don’t care, I just need to do it, because it’s the right thing to do. It inspires the soldiers and it inspires me.”

In response to a question about any near misses he had while playing on the front lines, Vakartuk acknowledged that he had come into perilous circumstances three out of four times, but said these dangers paled in comparison to those taken by the soldiers defending Ukraine from Russian onslaught.

“I certainly don’t put myself at risk just for the sake of taking a risk. But, sometimes you never know because it’s the frontline. They can shell you, they can bomb you,” he said. “But, I have to do it. These guys on the frontline, who are actually fighting, they put their lives at risk to a much bigger extent than me. So, I think I can do what I do.”

Vakartšuk concluded the interview by thanking the people in Estonia “for everything you are doing for us. Ukraine really loves you,” he said.

Okean Elzy played at Tallinn’s Saku Suurhall on Thursday, September 8.

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