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International Last Updated: Dec 27, 2007 - 10:17:37 AM

Scorpions Give Spies a Perestroika Ballad
By Nikolaus von Twickel, Francesca Mereu and Kevin O'Flynn, Moscow Times 24/12/07
Dec 26, 2007 - 9:09:51 AM

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But when Klaus Meine, lead singer of the Scorpions, sang "Wind of Change" at the Kremlin Palace on Thursday night, listening front and center was the man who has called the Soviet breakup the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."


President Vladimir Putin was among scores of former KGB and current Federal Security Service officers watching the German hard rock band perform for Security Services Day, which commemorates the Bolshevik founding of the secret police 90 years ago.

Meine said he wrote "Wind of Change" after being inspired by changes he sensed while visiting Moscow during the perestroika years. Those changes helped set in motion the democratic forces that led to the Soviet Union's demise.

"I follow the Moskva, down to Gorky Park, listening to the wind of change," Meine sang Thursday to the packed auditorium. Rossia state television, which broadcast the concert live, showed officers applauding appreciatively at the end of the song.

But in an interview Friday, Meine said he had no idea that the concert was for a holiday associated with the security services. "We were told this would be a very special Christmas occasion," Meine said by telephone before boarding a plane to Germany at Sheremetyevo Airport.

The band did know that the gig would be "an internal Kremlin event," he said.

The band learned about the concert during its world tour, which it wrapped up with three concerts in India earlier this month, Meine said. "Our Moscow promoter asked us if we could perform for a special concert with nationwide television coverage, and we said yes," Meine said.

Just weeks after Meine wrote "Wind of Change" in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Putin was a KGB agent stationed in East Germany when the wall came down.

Thursday's concert also featured violinist Vanessa Mae, legendary guitarist Carlos Santana, renowned Russian baritone Dmitry Khvorostovsky and the Sretensky Monastery choir. Soviet security services arrested, shot and tortured thousands of church leaders in the 1920s and 1930s.

Putin was shown in the front row along with first deputy prime minister and fellow former KGB officer Sergei Ivanov, Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev, Foreign Intelligence Service chief Mikhail Fradkov, Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov and First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an avowed hard-rock fan whom Putin has backed as the next president.

Meine said he had not noticed Putin or the other senior officials in the audience. "There were so many floodlights. We really could not see them," he said.

He said, however, that audiences at the group's concerts tended to be livelier than Thursday's crowd. "This was not like our last concerts in India with 45,000 people," he said.

Putin on Thursday praised the security services and said their ranks were growing stronger. He alluded to ongoing infighting, insisting that the security services obey the law and protect citizens' rights.

"All the activities of the security organizations must be based strictly on the norms and letter of the law," Putin said in televised remarks.

The Dec. 20 holiday is a time "to remember the heroic pages in the history of the country's special services," he said.

Around 78 percent of the political elite under Putin is affiliated with the security services and military, and 26 percent have direct experience working for the security services, said Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a sociologist who tracks Kremlin politics and the security services.

Security services officers across the country celebrated their day Thursday, many raising a glass to the memory of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka, a precursor to the KGB, and to Yury Andropov, the longest-serving KGB chief, an FSB spokesman said.

"Everyone was in a good mood Thursday," he said.

State Duma Deputy Andrei Lugovoi, a former security services agent accused in Britain of murdering former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, called the holiday "an important celebration." Lugovoi said he was not invited to Thursday's concert.

Western musicians in the past have unwittingly played at political events. In November 1995, an agitated and embarrassed Glenn Hughes, former bassist of the rock group Deep Purple, said he was "mortified" to discover that a concert he was giving was connected to the campaign of Our Home Is Russia, a political movement led by then-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. MC Hammer was among the other acts signed up to play at events organized by Our Home Is Russia.

Thursday's concert was not the first time the Scorpions have performed "Wind of Change" at the Kremlin. In December 1991, the group played the song for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whom they presented with $62,500 in humanitarian aid. The band has also recorded a version of the song in Russian.

Meine refused to say whether the Scorpions would have performed if they had known the concert was for the security services. "This is a moot point because we did not know," he said.

Asked whether the band would perform if invited for the holiday next year, Meine said he would not plan so far ahead.

"We are going on tour in Russia next spring or summer," he said. "I cannot say what else we will do in 2008."

Source:Ocnus.net 2007

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