WARSAW, Poland (AP) – British musician Sting interrupted a concert in Warsaw on Saturday night to warn audiences that democracy is under attack worldwide and to denounce the war in Ukraine as “an absurdity based on a lie”.
He asked a popular Polish actor, Maciej Stuhr, to come on stage to translate his warning that democracy “is in grave danger of being lost unless we defend it”.
“The alternative to democracy is a prison, a prison of the spirit. The alternative to democracy is violence, repression, imprisonment and silence,” Sting said, then rubbed his hand across his neck in a throat-slitting gesture.
The 70-year-old delivered his message in a country bordering Ukraine, where Russia launched its February 24 invasion that has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions. Poland has become a haven for more Ukrainians than any other country.
“The war in Ukraine is an absurdity based on a lie. If we swallow that lie, the lie will eat us up,” Sting said. He appeared to be referring to justifications Russia was trying to give for its invasion, including a Russian claim that it was seeking to “denazify” Ukraine, a democracy run by a Jewish president.
The spectators in the Warsaw National Stadium also understood a connection to their own country.
Sting received a big round of applause when he said democracy is messy and frustrating, “but still worth fighting for.”
Poland’s populist government is often accused by the European Union and human rights organizations of undermining democratic norms with its efforts to tighten control of the courts and media, restrict women’s reproductive rights and engage in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric .
After his speech, he performed “Fragile,” the lyrics of which include the words that “nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could.”