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Ukrainian-Americans protest Russian ballet at SPAC

Updated: 07/30/2014 12:44 AM
Created: 07/29/2014 5:25 PM WNYT.com
By: Steve Flamisch

SARATOGA SPRINGS – As the Bolshoi Ballet and Orchestra opened at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Tuesday night, the dancing was met by demonstration.

Close to 30 Ukrainian-Americans picketed the Russian ballet, accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of waging war against Ukraine, and shooting down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.

"The monies collected at these ballet performances end up in the pockets of Putin and the military, funding the aggression, funding the rockets," said protestor Roman Karpishka, of Loudonville.

Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova called the allegations “nonsense,” insisting none of the money goes to the Russian military. And SPAC contended the ballet is not a political event.

"The Arts should have no boundaries," said Marcia White, SPAC’s president and executive director. "Clearly this performance should not be held hostage to any political dispute."

The protest was restricted to an area adjacent to the Route 50 parking lot. Park Police stopped a few demonstrators who strayed from the designated zone to hand out information sheets.

Many people going to the ballet never noticed the protest, while those who did spot the group offered mixed reactions.

"I believe the ballet dancers are innocent here," said Gloria Weyand, of Gansevoort. "The protestors shouldn't be protesting them -- and they say they're not -- but they shouldn't be protesting them."

Graham Kerr, of Greenwich, countered, "One of the benefits of living in this country is that you can publicly express your thoughts. You don't have to fear being prosecuted for your thoughts."

The ballet has three remaining performances: Wednesday at 8:00 p.m., Thursday at 2:00 p.m., and Friday at 8:00 p.m. The protestors vowed to picket all three shows.

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