18 Mar 2014

‘I don’t need a visa to hear Tupac’: Russians mock sanctions

The United States and the European Union have placed sanctions on a number of individuals connected to the “illegitimate” annexation of Crimea – but the response is often laughter.

Tupac Shakur (picture: Getty)

Above: the late rapper Tupac Shakur

A total of 28 Russian and Ukrainian figures have been placed under sanctions in a US list comprising 11 names and an EU list comprising 21 names (four names appear on both lists).

The US list has targeted high-profile Russian politicians who are close to Putin, such as the “architect of Putinism” Vladislav Surkov and Valentina Matviyenko, Russia’s third highest-ranking leader. The EU list targets more mid-ranking figures, thought to have been specifically involved in Crimea’s annexation to Russia.

What should do those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Dmitry Rogozin, Russian deputy prime minister

However, the sanctions have been criticised for not going after Putin or other people who are close to him, and for not applying to family members, such as wives, who may possess large sums of money.

The sanctions include the freezing of assets and the barring of travel to the US and EU.

However, many of those placed under the sanctions have mocked these restrictions, saying they do not have any assets outside Russia and have no intention of traveling to the EU or USA.

I don’t need a visa for Tupac

Mr Surkov, a presidential aide who has reined in Russia’s media for Putin, joked that being on Barack Obama’s “blacklist” was a “big honour”.

Vladislav Surkov (picture: Getty)

Above: Vladislav Surkov has a bit of a snigger.

Russian media quoted the aide, believed to be one of the few people consulted by Putin over Crimea, as having said that the sanctions will have no impact on him.

“I see the decision by the administration in Washington as an acknowledgment of my service to Russia,” he said. “I don’t have accounts abroad. The only things that interest me in the US are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock.

“I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”

It has previously been reported that Mr Surkov has a picture of Tupac in his office, next to his picture of President Putin.

President Prankster

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister who appears on the US list, tweeted to “Comrade” Barack Obama mocking the president for not thinking about the fact that some names on the list did not have property or accounts overseas.

Rogozin, who oversees Russia’s arms industry, sent a second tweet saying that “some prankster” must have prepared the sanction documents.

‘Keep looking’

“It is with pride that I have found myself on the black list, this means they have noticed my stance on Crimea,” joked Sergei Mironov, a Russian politician and leader of the Just Russia faction in the Russian parliament.

Mr Mironov, who is on the EU’s list of sanctionees, quoted from a satirical novel, The Little Golden Calf.

“I want to respond by re-phrasing the phrase from the Golden Calf – ‘Keep looking, Shura, keep looking’,” he said.

The original phrases is “keep sawing Shura, keep sawing” – and refers to an enterprise that is about to fail.

“No accounts exist, let them introduce sanctions as much as they want,” Mr Mironov said on Tuesday.

‘Respected company’

The head of the Russian upper chamber’s committee on the constitution, legal and judicial affairs, Andrei Klishas, dismissed the sanctions on Russian officials as “hilarious”.

“I have no accounts in Europe,” Mr Klishas said in an interview. “As for the six-month ban on entering the EU, it surely looks hilarious.

“The feeling European politicians evoke in me in connection with all this Ukrainian story is between pity and disgust.”

Mr Klishas said he welcomed being included on the lists (he is listed on both the US and EU lists) because he was “in the company of very respected people”.

He added that he was “flattered” by the attention.


Other, perhaps more recognisable, names are included on the list including ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and Crimea’s newly-appointed Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov (pictured below, left).

Aksyonov and Matviyenko (picture: Reuters)

Above: Sergei Aksyonov and Valentina Matviyenko enjoy a good old chuckle together.

Valentina Matviyenko (pictured above, right), Russia’s highest ranking female politician, said she the sanctions are “unheard of since the cold war”, adding that they would not hurt her as she has “no accounts and no property abroad”.

Yelena Mizulina, the conservative politician who authored Russia’s anti-homosexuality laws, said the sanctions were “revenge for my views”.

US and EU politicians have promised more sanctions against Russia, after a speech by Vladimir Putin showed he has no intention of backing down.

Further sanctions may wipe the smiles of Russian faces, but that remains to be seen.