A former culture minister is leading the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, which began earlier this morning. Vladimir Medinsky is the head of the Russian delegation that met Ukrainian counterparts for the talks on the Belarusian border, which are ongoing.
“We definitely want to reach some kind of agreement as quickly as possible, though it has to be in the interests of both sides,” Medinsky told Russia’s state agency RIA-Novosti, according to the Financial Times. The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, says he wants an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian forces. On 25 February, Zelensky said in a video address that 137 people had been killed in the first 24 hours of the Russian invasion.
Early in 2020, Medinsky was ousted in a government reshuffle and replaced by Olga Lyubimova; he had been in post since 2012.
Cultural figures in spheres such as theatre and contemporary art who had been targeted by Medinsky’s nationalist policies initially rejoiced on social media at the news of his dismissal. Concerns soon emerged though as Russian media reported that Medinsky would be named as a top cultural adviser to the Kremlin and retain significant influence.
According to the Radio Free Europe website, Medinsky “helped lead the charge against art that, in the eyes of conservative activists, touches on so-called ‘gay propaganda’.” In 2017, he was accused of plagiarism when a Russian academic council recommended revoking his 2011 doctorate that focused on “problems of objectivity” in covering Russian history from the 15th to the 17th century. A government agency later cleared him of the plagiarism charge.
In 2014, Russia’s Ministry of Culture fired the art historian Grigory Revzin from his post as the commissioner of the Russian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Revzin claimed that the dismissal was linked to a blog in which he was critical of Russia’s military presence in Ukraine.
Revzin wrote: “I just got off the phone with [a spokesperson] from the ministry of culture who told me of minister [Vladimir] Medinsky’s personal decision to fire me from me post as curator of the Russian pavilion in the Venice Biennale of Architecture. And I didn’t even write anything about Crimea!”