Vladimir Putin Attacked 'Cancel Culture' but Now His TikTok Fans Are Embracing It

After Russian officials bemoaned being "canceled" by Western countries over the Ukraine war, the pro-Kremlin sphere on TikTok is attempting to take down famous Russians and Ukrainians who oppose the conflict.

Earlier this month, Sergey Naryshkin, director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, painted Russia as a victim of so-called "cancel culture" following the West's detrimental sanctions against Moscow.

"The masks are off," Naryshkin said. "The West isn't simply trying to close off Russia behind a new iron curtain. This is about an attempt to ruin our government. To 'cancel' it, as they now say in 'tolerant' liberal-fascist circles."

Before the hostilities in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin himself had criticized "cancel culture" in other countries.

But "cancelation" tactics are gladly used by Russian TikTok accounts supportive of the Kremlin's war on Ukraine. A number of viral videos compiled lists of prominent Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian personalities perceived to be "traitors."

Famous Russian faces commonly featured in the videos include late-night talk show host Ivan Urgant; comedians Maxim Galkin and Garik Kharlamov; actors Aleksandr Gudkov and Danila Kozlovsky; singers Valery Meladze, Sergey Lazarev, Manizha, and Ekaterina Varnava; influencer Nastya Ivleeva; independent journalist Yury Dud; and socialite-turned-presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak.

One video, which garnered nearly 96,000 likes, said they "criticized the President's decisions at such a difficult time." Another, at 83,000 likes, said: "It would be better if they just kept silent."

A TikTok video with at least 112,800 likes mocked the career hits undertaken by household names who condemned the war.

For posting a pitch-black Instagram image with the caption stating "there is no justification for war," Maxim Galkin was met with online fury and real-life repercussions. Russian news outlet RBC reported state channels refused to air an advertisement he appears in.

The comedian himself shared a news report of Russians lining up at a venue to demand refunds for his show in Arkhangelsk, which ended up canceled.

Galkin declined Newsweek's request for comment.

According to Russian media, singer Valery Meladze faced a similar backlash after filming a video in which he said the war "should not have happened" and advocated for negotiations.

Meladze's comments were followed by mass returns and resales of tickets to his International Women's Day show on March 8. The artist was removed from promotional posters for the concert, which was eventually postponed to next year (though his manager chalked up the rescheduling to "health issues.")

Talk show host Ivan Urgant—known as Russia's answer to Jimmy Fallon—saw his late-night program Evening Urgant placed on an indefinite hiatus after the comedian made his anti-war stance clear on social media. On February 25, the show released a statement saying its "timeout" will only last "a few days."

Sergey Lazarev—who twice represented Russia in the Eurovision Song Contest—posted sharp criticism of the war on his Instagram story.

"Sit down at the negotiating table! Let people live!!! Nobody supports the war," he wrote. "I want my children to live in peacetime!"

Following his remarks, students of the Saratov Conservatory circulated a Change.org petition calling on the region's culture minister to cancel Lazarev's March 7 concert at the Saratov Drama Theater. The venue nixed the event, citing "the position of the people."

"As for Lazarev's concert, it will not take place in Saratov—this is unacceptable," the theater's director told local media. "Many Saratov residents who bought tickets began handing them over in advance because of the position of this performer."

Harassment and threats prompted Lazarev to delete his Instagram profile, making him one of several stars to have either padlocked or purged their social media accounts due to backlash over the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Meladze, Urgant and Lazarev did not respond to Newsweek's requests for comment.

A number of celebrities who spoke out against the attack on Ukraine were also added to an online registry of Russia's "traitors and enemies." Assembled by a group that calls itself the "Committee for the Protection of National Interests," the blacklist was promoted by pro-Russia TikTok accounts.

One rapid-fire TikTok video viewed over 3 million times flipped through dozens of celebrities accused of having turned against Russia and its people "at a difficult moment." The video included several famous faces who had not even publicly commented on the war.

One of them is Russian-Ukrainian singer Natasha Korolyova, who was banned from Ukraine for five years in 2016 for holding a concert in Russian-annexed Crimea.

Korolyova has been conspicuously silent on social media since the war began, and was rumored to have fled Russia after local journalists found her phone number to have stopped working.

The TikTok video also shamed three high-profile Russians—singer Jasmin, along with television personalities Yana Rudkovskaya and Lera Kudryavtseva—who voiced their support for Russia.

The TikTok vitriol also roped in Ukrainian stars, such as singers Vera Brezhneva and Ivan Dorn, as well as Eurovision alum Svetlana Loboda, who have actively criticized Russia's military campaign.

Some shared direct appeals to their Russian fans about the conflict's devastation.

In an Instagram post showing wartime scenes from Ukraine, Brezhneva reported she and her children are safe, but her husband, mother and sister's family "are hiding from the bombing in basements."

"I have 32% Russian subscribers," she said. "I just want you to know the truth. And if you can do something, do it."

In an Instagram video, popular Ukrainian travel YouTuber Anton Ptushkin—who, along with Loboda, is on the Committee for the Protection of National Interests' database of "traitors"—similarly addressed his Russian audience.

"You, of course, may be told that this is a military operation, but this is a real war," he said. "You will be told that the facilities that the Russian army will hit are exclusively military facilities, this is also not true.

"Therefore, Russians, I call on you to speak out against this war. If you think that it does not concern you, you are mistaken. It affects absolutely everyone."

Ptushkin, Brezhneva, Loboda, and Dorn have been asked for comment.

Russia President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Russian government via teleconference in Moscow on March 10, 2022. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

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