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Russia considers labeling Soviet pop queen a 'foreign agent'

March 29, 2024

Russian prosecutors reportedly want Alla Pugacheva, known as the "queen of Soviet pop" music, to be designated by government officials as a potential threat.

Russian singer Alla Pugacheva outside the Lenkom Theater in 2018
Pugacheva is known across the generations in Russia for for hits such as "Million Scarlet Roses"Image: Sergei Fadeichev/TASS/picture alliance

Russia's Prosecutor General's Office sent a request to the Ministry of Justice to have singer Alla Pugacheva designated as a foreign agent, state RIA news agency reported on Friday.

Pugacheva is among Russia's most famous people and has, in the past, been celebrated by both President Vladimir Putin and his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. Upon the death of Mikhail Gorbachev in 2022, Pugacheva praised the last Soviet leader for allowing freedom and his rejection of violence.

Why would Pugacheva be labeled as a threat?

RIA published a copy of a document from the head of the Federal Project on Security and Anti-Corruption, Vitaly Borodin, that cited the request. 

Pugacheva, who was for decades hugely popular in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union, left the country with her husband several weeks after Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

She caused a stir among both supporters and opponents of the war by saying that Russia had become a "pariah" state and that its soldiers were dying for "illusory goals."

Pugacheva had provocatively suggested that authorities should classify her as a "foreign agent" — a status already applied to her spouse, the actor and comedian Maxim Galkin.

Despite Russia having introduced a law after the start of the war that demanded prison sentences or fines for anyone who denigrates the military, Pugacheva has not been charged. 

Singer Alla Pugacheva and her partner Maxim Galkin in 2021
Pugacheva said authorities should name her a "foreign agent" after her husband Maxim Galkin was labeled as oneImage: Sergei Karpukhin/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

She returned to Russia in May 2023 for the funeral of fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin, where Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was observed kissing her hand. Pugacheva later left the country but returned once more this week.

Pugachevais best known for hits such as the 1982 song "Million Scarlet Roses" and the 1978 film "The Woman who Sings."

Her private life — in particular, her marriage to Galkin, who is 27 years her junior — had long been an ongoing topic of interest in the Russian media. Unlike Galkin, who voiced criticism of Russia's invasion of Ukraine soon after it began, Pugacheva did not make any immediate political statements. She did so only after Moscow had labeled him a foreign agent.

"I am in solidarity with my husband, an honest, decent, and sincere person, a real and unbuyable patriot of Russia who wishes his homeland prosperity, a peaceful life, freedom of speech, and an end to our boys dying for illusory goals that make our country a pariah and complicate the lives of our citizens," Pugacheva wrote in a post on the social media platform Instagram in September 2022.

Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.